The Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health (Gates Institute) is rooted in the concept of equality, health care for all, and all lives being of equal value and deserving of equal opportunity. The recent and historic attacks on Black Americans goes against who we are as a community. We call for an end to the ongoing racial injustice, white supremacy in America, and any and all forms of racist, bigoted, and targeted assaults on communities of color across the globe.
While our country – and the world – continues to fight against the greatest global pandemic of our lifetime, our Black friends, colleagues, and partners must wage two wars simultaneously – one against COVID-19 and one against the structural, rampant, and fatal racism that has plagued the United States since its inception. As an organization whose mission it is to support and amplify those most vulnerable among us, we must do everything within our power, use every resource at our disposal, and not stop until all Black and Brown people can live without fear of losing their life to racially motivated violence.
We have witnessed violence and military-grade weapons flood our streets, and hurtful vitriol fill our communities, since the senseless murder of George Floyd last week. We know that police violence, systemic racism, poverty, and health inquiries disproportionately plague communities of color. These disparities are only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of wages, health insurance, food instability, and myriad other social issues that come with it.
As we grapple with the reality of this virus, and the loss of life experienced both from COVID-19 and racial injustice in this country, we want to be clear about two things. Firstly, silence is not an option – now or ever. And secondly, Black Lives Matter.
Our mission as an organization is to improve the lives of the most marginalized and vulnerable among us. The global health community must not only challenge ourselves to “be better” in every instance of the phrase, but also to be actively anti-racist in everything that we do, everything that we stand for, and all our work carried out each day in every part of the world.
Gates Institute acknowledges that institutional racism is not isolated to the United States, and recognizes that many of our partners and colleagues around the world have experienced racist and classist attacks similar to Black Americans. While we are in the process of developing action items specific to Gates Institute internally, we are matching that effort in external, actionable items to address the structural inequalities and prejudice that our partners face.
Together, we can and will overcome the hateful, racist remarks, actions, and institutions which continue to threaten the safety and wellbeing of our Black and Brown staff, friends, allies, and partners. Reform is necessary, but not sufficient, to fundamentally change the way communities of colors experience life in this country and in the world.
Now is not the time to be silent. Now is the time for difficult conversations, acknowledging our own implicit biases and privilege, and using our positions of power to support those who have had their voices silenced for too long.
Jose “Oying” Rimon II
Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health
Senior Scientist, Population Family and Reproductive Health
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health