Recent events have shown us again the dark forces of injustice, bias, and racism. We see it in the unconscionable and horrific deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Abery in Georgia. We see it in the continuing and growing list of brutal killings of black and brown Americans, many at the hands of law enforcement officers. And we also see it in the disproportional impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on communities of color due to systemic and structural inequalities.
None of us in leadership can pretend to understand the daily struggles of a black person living under oppression in this country. And we cannot understand what four hundred years of systemic dehumanization and subjugation does to a community. But we do know that as a department and as individuals, we can do more to fight racism and bias and to promote an environment that celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion for our students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, staff, and the greater community of Durham and North Carolina. Our commitment is yet more necessary given the horrific and damaging rhetoric that emanates from the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, a Branch which has shown no interest in eradicating systemic racism in the United States nor any empathy towards the plight of people of color in this country. Further, we must fight its assault on immigrants and work hard to protect our international students and postdoctoral fellows from harmful and ill-conceived policies. We’re open to your suggestions but we’re not making this your problem to solve—we are actively moving on this ourselves already because we acknowledge there’s a problem and we need to work harder at solving it.
In the days ahead, Dick will preside over a forum that brings members of our department together to share feelings, thoughts, and emotions. We do not have a black or indigenous faculty member in our department and we recognize this to be a major challenge to attaining many of our goals. In the months ahead, we are going to redouble our efforts to recruit, retain, and support BIPOC at the student, post-doc, faculty, and staff administrator levels. At the same time, we will reaffirm our commitment to fight all forms of racism and bias. We will be deliberate in developing an environment that empowers victims of bias and racism to speak up and hold individuals who perpetuate such acts accountable.
Everyone deserves to be sitting at the same table. Everyone deserves to be safe. Everyone belongs here.
Duke Biochemistry Leadership
Dick Brennan, Hashim Al-Hashimi, Meta Kuehn, Mike Boyce