Commitment to Anti-Racism
The people of the UW Master of Community-Oriented Public Health Practice program have made a commitment to transform our educational program. Knowing we’re embedded in a large department in a large school at a large U.S. public university, we recognize the magnitude of the challenge to overcome generations of institutional racism.
Racism and Public Health
Since our first cohort entered in the fall of 2002, our program has been influenced and shaped not only by faculty leadership but also by the values and priorities of our students. Over the years, student cohorts have increasingly recognized the role of systemic and structural racism in undermining the public’s health.
The COPHP entering class of 2013 formed an entity called the Committee on Oppression, Racism and Education, or CORE. CORE members organized a collective to move the COPHP program toward anti-racist practice and analysis.
As a result of CORE’s work, we staged our first two-day Undoing Institutional Racism (UIR) workshop in fall 2014, sponsored by the People’s Institute Northwest. UIR workshops are devoted to helping participants understand the history and purposes of racism, connections between racism and poverty, and how racism is perpetuated through power dynamics in our institutions.
Since 2014, every first-year COPHP student, along with a number of faculty and staff, has spent a full weekend participating in this training.
Over the past few years, faculty and CORE students have continued and deepened this work. As part of these efforts, we have changed a number of ways in which we frame and portray the problems of power, privilege and racism in public health work. These steps have included:
- Revising our admissions process to include CORE participation and criteria
- Adding an anti-racism commitment statement to our course syllabi
- Adding classroom climate questions to our student course evaluations
- Committing to annual UIR trainings for all program participants
- Creating space for CORE at regular faculty meetings and retreats
- Employing CORE students and graduates to review program cases to ensure they don't carry implicit bias
For example, a recent program faculty retreat included an exercise created by CORE students that illustrated how microaggressions play out in the classroom, and help faculty work through how to better manage those situations.
CORE students have also been actively engaged in the Seattle community, joining the Black Lives Matter movement and working with EPIC (End the Prison Industrial Complex) to fight against construction of the new Seattle-King County youth jail.
COPHP alumni also helped the UW School of Public Health create the class Undoing Racism in Public Health, which is open to all graduate and undergraduate students.