by Contributing Writer, Cheryl D. Howard

Ongoing isolated and national incidences have prompted UC Black Affinity Group Leaders, Charron M. Andrus, Chair UC Davis Health African American Faculty & Staff Association and Dennis McIver, Past Chair UC Riverside Black Faculty & Staff Association to write an important letter, A Call to Action: Address Systemic Racism across the University of California

A collective of authors is taking a very valiant stance to mobilize the controversial issue of systemic racism.  UC California is only one entity of many health systems that may have directly or indirectly cultivated racist white supremacy, and or white privilege ideologies.  The Call to Action is in effort to protect the inalienable rights of every black employee, student, faculty and staff within the UC System.

There is an ingenious quality to this letter.  It has been well thought out and broken down into 9 major points.  Much of the language in this letter has been visited before, however, the recent publicized horrors seen wrought against people of color has re-ignited a fight that has been lying dormant for far too long.  The 1960’s civil rights movement, is seemingly of no comparison to the trumpeted sound we hear now, “Enough is Enough!” Not only has there been a discharge of rage in black people across this land, it has been a birthing of allies literally across the globe.

UC Davis Health, an internal ally, made a statement on anti-racism. “We recognize that systemic racism manifests not only in the physical violence captured on camera, but the ongoing violence of denying Black communities equity in healthcare, housing, employment, education, environmental quality, and other resources needed to live full and healthy lives.” Dennis McIvey responded to the statement. “I think it is a promising start. I’m grateful that this level of commitment was made.  In the spirit of moving forward it is incumbent on all of us – on an individual and group level, from Davis to San Diego – to address these things strategically, thoughtfully, and (most importantly) routinely.  By doing this we can ensure that the unique challenges faced by UC’s Black community today will not reappear tomorrow,” said McIvey.

It was decided that with this letter they could come together to speak with a unified voice.  Many recognized the importance of this moment.  There are nine points made which has been seen before, “but what has not been seen is movement or real commitment toward progress,” said Ms. Andrus.

The UC African American Faculty & Staff Association have seen other large healthcare companies, like Kaiser, get behind the anti-racism movement. This was their chance to say, “Hey University of California we are holding you to the same standards that all of the other organizations are being held to…that if you’re going to be promoting yourselves as a diverse place to work, the most diverse in the state, you belong here slogan, then you have to do the work making sure that when people get here, that it is that kind of place,” as stated by Ms. Andrus.

The Association will re-create a formal “Zero Tolerance” policy on racism. “Those in leadership know what is wrong and that these issues are not new, but what could be new is taking actionable steps to bring about change,” said Charron.  It is important for there to be a commitment to transparency.  Data is so vital to businesses and organizations. Without specific and necessary data, there is no justification for making changes, or for funding.

There is an essential need for a task force for UC staffing concerns.  There are some disparities in areas such as in the recruitment and hiring process, and retention.  In terms of retention, Dennis stated that when he served on the Council of UC Staff Assemblies, a bi-annual survey was done and based off the black experience the number of departures were found to be shocking.  Of the people surveyed, more than half of them were actively considering leaving the UC System.  That in itself speaks to a possible issue that something may be out of sync with the UC’s premise that all should feel welcomed.

Point four is becoming more relevant in many states, not just in California.  It is a point to issue and support a resolution declaring racism as a Public Health Crisis.  In Columbus, Ohio this same resolution was presented on the Senate floor.  (See the link ) Several members gave impassioned testimonies to appeal to the Senate Health, Human Services & Medicaid Committee. “We are tired that history’s only solution to flattening the racist curve is for us to lay down…I’m tired of laying down,” one man said with emotion.       

On another point, a review of funding for Black Affinity Groups throughout the UC System is crucial to support multiple programs for black faculty, staff, and students.  One suggestion is that the Association implement executive sponsorship to aid all UC systemwide black employee groups. “Here at UC Riverside, the Association has no funding, all the work that has been done, has been done on the backs of the people who say I care about this and I am willing to commit my time, energy, and in some cases, money toward making it happen.  The level of work that they (Affinity groups) have been doing outpaces groups that have been getting significantly for money.” stated McIver.  Charron believes it is more important, at this time, to the Associations that they yet have a seat at the table so that their petitions will be heard, and their valid points be acted upon.

Eventually, it will be a goal to have all major UC Health entities gathered in one room to hash out each problematic issue. “We didn’t have any control over everything that led to this point, but we have a whole lot of power in this moment to do something about it and to advocate push for changes and growth.” said McIver.  A phrase that Dennis has heard over the past year is “Turning a moment into a movement.”  Charron Andrus and Dennis McIver may have done just that with the Call to Action: Addressing Systemic Racism Across the University of California.

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Cheryl Denice HowardCheryl Denice Howard is a freelance writer and in her short career has successfully written three stageplays, was editor and creator of three community newsletters, and while in college had more than 30 articles published. Her favorite genre of writing is Opinion. She won an award for opinion writing, and it was well deserved. She is currently working on her first screenplay while pursuing a Bachelor degree in Journalism with a Minor in Creative Writing.



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