Juneteenth: A Time to Reflect

Today marks the celebration of Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. Even though the proclamation was declared by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, two and a half years later on June 19, 1865, the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation was finally fulfilled when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned that the Civil War was over and that slavery had ended. You can read more about the history of Juneteenth here, here, and here.

Recent events have put a national and international spotlight on racial inequities, police brutality and systemic racism. It is unfortunate that we continue to witness these events, such as the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tete Gulley, Tony McDade, Rekia Boyd, Oluwayotin Salau and so many others, and that our country continues to grapple with these inequities that impact Black members of our society.

The Dugoni School’s defining characteristic of Humanism — combined with our core values of Courage, Empowerment, Excellence, Innovation, Integrity, and Leadership — are all in stark contrast to these brutal actions and inequities. To achieve our purpose of helping people lead healthy lives, we must dedicate ourselves to health and social equity.

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Each of us, our families, friends, and institutions can take steps to address inequities we see around us. Training and educating ourselves is one part of the solution. I encourage all of us to be aware of potential personal or institutional biases that can affect our school and work environment. At our Faculty Development Day in December, Dr. Magali Fassiotto, assistant dean in the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity at Stanford University School of Medicine, provided training to faculty and staff on how they can identify unconscious bias in the classroom and clinical settings. Please take some time today to learn more in our recent Contact Point alumni magazine feature story “Identifying Unconscious Bias: A Movement Toward Equity and Inclusion in the Classroom and Beyond,” here.

As a school family, we will continue to work toward uncovering our own biases, prejudices, and unintentional behaviors, as well as work toward an even better understanding of how our values and our purpose can be put into action to end racism.

“Tolerance like any aspect of peace, is forever a work in progress, never completed and, if we're as intelligent as we like to think we are, never abandoned.” —Octavia E. Butler

The Diversity & Inclusion Committee, our Pacific ASDA Chapter, and other groups have been active with initiatives and I support their good work and actions. We also have a new resource to support our diversity and inclusion efforts, including our student recruitment. As I mentioned in our Town Hall on Wednesday, congratulations to Melissa Yamanaka, who has accepted a position with the Office of Student Services, as Diversity and Admissions Outreach Manager. She will report to Stan Constantino to advance and strengthen initiatives.

Today, there are discussions, forums, and online activities taking place all across the country in honor of Juneteenth. The San Francisco Chronicle has compiled a list of online events and resources here. One of our students also recommended the documentary “13th,” available on Netflix and YouTube, as an educational opportunity. There are many other educational resources available.  Please see the partial list of resources below shared with us by one of our students.

Links:

Books:

  • Forty Years of Medical Racism: The Tuskegee Experiments — Alondra Nelson
  • Black Man in A White Coat — Damon Tweedy M.D.
  • Medical Apartheid — Harriet A. Washington
  • Just Medicine — Dayna Bowen Mathew
  • Unmasking Racism in Healthcare: Alive and Well — Marie Edwige Seneque PhD, RN
  • The Health Gap — Michael Marmot
  • Black & Blue — John Hoberman

As suggested in our University Interim President’s message yesterday, I too encourage you to take time today to learn, educate yourself, and think about what diversity and inclusion means to you, and what it means for the Dugoni School. Please share your thoughts and ideas about any changes you would like to see or additional resources with our Diversity & Inclusion Committee and me.

The profession of dentistry must also take action to better reflect the current (and future) changes in the demographics of America.  We have much work ahead of us but I am more hopeful and optimistic today than I have ever been before.

It is important that all Americans pledge not just their support for racial justice, but to commit to action to effect real change.   Let us work together as members of the Dugoni School family to grow and change the world as it should be.

“It takes a deep commitment to change and an even deeper commitment to grow.” —Ralph Ellison