Comagine Health President and CEO Marc Bennett sent this letter to employees the morning of April 20, 2021, prior to the verdict in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd.
Dear Comagine Health Colleagues,
A substantial number of political leaders, activists and social scientists alike have described the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin as a start of a “racial reckoning” in this country. A reckoning involves taking the measure of actions and inactions, of history and beliefs and a reckoning calls us to account. A nation engaged in reckoning sees honest dialogue, reconciliation and above all, change. Unfortunately, there is not yet much evidence of significant, lasting change.
Certainly by now every police department in the state of Minnesota and the nation has viewed the shocking videotape of George Floyd’s death; yet almost a year later and just 10 miles away, a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, shot and killed Daunte Wright, an unarmed Black man, after a traffic stop. The specific facts of each story are different, but the themes of racial profiling and bias contributing to violence are consistent. Almost every week, it seems, we read of another young Black man or another person of color killed by police in this nation. The data continues to show that all people of color, and especially young Black men, are killed by police at a much higher rate than white people. And people of color across the nation and in each of our own communities are continuing to be exposed to bias, exclusion, mistreatment and even violence by individuals, institutions, police and other government entities on a daily basis. For example, in Windsor, Virginia, U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, a Black man and active duty soldier in uniform, was pulled over by police with no probable cause and little pretense. His life was threatened by police, he was pepper sprayed at gunpoint, he was assaulted and handcuffed without legitimate provocation. One of the police officers was also recorded offering not to file charges if Lt. Nazario would agree to not report the incident.
So, what are we to make of this “racial reckoning”?
The ongoing news of racial injustice may feel overwhelming and disconcerting; however, it is important to remember that this struggle for humanity and justice is not contingent on the outcome of the trial now concluding in Minneapolis, or on any other single act or event. Regardless of the outcome of this trial, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to an ongoing, continuous effort to confront the violence, division, disparities and inequities in the fabric of our nation. We can start by addressing those issues over which we have influence and agency. I’m grateful that my friends and colleagues of color have begun to share more about their experiences with racism in America. It has broadened my perspective and helped me see how I can begin to talk about racial justice in my home, in my circle of influence, in our organization and in my community more productively and more respectfully. If we truly see these attacks, assaults and affronts for what they are, if we resolve and persevere together in dialogue and action, then we can begin to see the path to sustainable change in our nation.
Comagine Health exists to have and intends to have a material positive effect on health care in America, including on health equity and health justice. We will continue to tackle difficult problems in pursuit of transformation within the health care system. Accordingly, we will act to fight racism, address systemic failures and eliminate disparities — both those we see within our organization and among our circles of influence and those we encounter in our communities.