Protest against racist poster in hospital turns into celebration of diversity

A candlelight vigil serving as a demonstration against racism at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson, N.Y., became a "celebration of diversity" after hospital president and CEO Jay Cahalan sent a letter to employees apologizing for racially offensive posters at the hospital, according to the Register-Star.

The protest, planned for Monday, was prompted after a nursing supervisor at the hospital set up display in the staff lounge and in a family room called "African American Heritage." Under various headings, such as "communication," "nutrition" and "genetic health conditions," the display included racist statements, such as the assertion that African Americans "tend to talk louder than other cultures" and "pronounce 'th' as 'd.'"

Bill Van Slyke, a hospital spokesman, said the posters were hung up because a group of nurses pursuing degrees and was studying cultural diversity. The group used a textbook to create the posters to educate others on cultural differences, according to the report.

"They paraphrased or quoted from bullets that as they appeared on the poster, really were inappropriate," said Mr. Van Slyke. "If you read them, you don't have to be black — every race can read them and understand that's not appropriate, people are going to be offended by that. In this instance, that didn't happen — the poster was put up, staff were offended and made their concerns known. We apologized June 25, then conducted an independent review of all the facts surrounding this issue."

The displays upset many members of the hospital staff and were taken down within two days.

According to Mr. Van Slyke, the planned protest against the posters changed to a celebration of diversity as "an appropriate recognition that the organization — the hospital has responded well." Hospital officials "took actions with regard to some personnel in question we felt were very appropriate and commensurate with what happened," he explained.

In his letter to employees, Mr. Cahalan wrote, "These events should not have happened, and as CEO, I take full responsibility."

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