CDC employees call for anti-racism at agency

Employees at the CDC are calling on the agency to address what they say is racism and discrimination against Black workers, according to NPR.

In a June 30 letter cited by the publication and sent to CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, employees note the COVID-19 pandemic's disproportionate effect on the Black community as well as the deaths of Black Americans George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and Ahmaud Arbery.

Mr. Floyd's Memorial Day death, videotaped by an onlooker who captured an officer pressing his knee into Mr. Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, ignited protests against racism and excessive police force worldwide. 

"We are hurt. We are angry. We are exhausted. And ultimately, we fear that, despite the global protests, little will be done to address the systemic racism we face each and every day," the employees wrote.

They said the CDC "has a powerful platform from which to create real change" but "must clean its own house first."

The letter goes on to highlight challenges Black CDC employees experience. Employees said those include exclusion from the agency's senior ranks and leadership pipeline programs; an "'old boy/girl network ' that stifles Black talent"; and a "culture of racial aggressions, bullying and marginalization."

As a result of these issues, the employees call on the CDC to make seven acts of change including declaring racism a public health crisis in the U.S.; increasing Black representation among senior leadership; dismantling barriers to career advancement for Black employees; and mandating implicit bias training and cultural sensitivity education for staff.

In an emailed statement to Becker's, the CDC said Dr. Redfield received the letter and responded, adding, "CDC is committed to fostering a fair, equitable and inclusive environment in which staff can openly share their concerns with agency leadership."

Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, PhD, former CDC medical officer and research director on social determinants of health and equity, told NPR the letter was circulated among agency workers for signatures after it was sent to Dr. Redfield.

According to Dr. Jones, more than 1,000 CDC employees had signed the letter as of July 12.

Read the full NPR report here


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