The National Tuberculosis Controllers Association (NTCA) Board and Section leadership, staff, members, and external partners stand in solidarity with the Black community and others across the United States and throughout the world engaged in the fight for a more equitable society. The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers was horrific, sad, and frustratingly predictable.Thousands of Blacks and other people of color have been killed by police due to institutional racism over hundreds of years.
The impact of institutional racism doesn't begin or end with the police though; neither is it always violent. However, the damage is very real and deserves our attention and commitment to change. Systems and policies in place, across multiple sectors of our society, require reform to address the pervasive discrimination that is embedded in societal norms. We see daily the impact of health inequities for Blacks, LatinX, American Indians, and Asians in our work with tuberculosis (TB). Most dramatically, we see this long-standing health inequity emerging with the COVID-19 pandemic: Blacks, LatinX, and American Indians are dying of COVID-19 at much higher rates than other racial and ethnic groups.
The institutional racism that leads to the deaths of Blacks at the hands of law enforcement also causes people of color to have inferior healthcare, more polluted neighborhoods, lower pay, and less access to education than other groups in the United States. People of color suffer countless other microaggressions hardly visible to those with White privilege.
The evidence around TB tells a horrific story, similar to the story unfolding with George Floyd’s murder and the impact of COVID-19 on people of color:
TB in the United States is concentrated in racial and ethnic minority populations where employment may be unstable, pay lower wages, and not provide medical benefits. Many we serve and treat are not eligible for Medicaid because they arrived in the United States less than 5 years ago.
Surveillance data indicate that TB is:
- 34 times higher in Asians than in Whites
- 8 times higher in Blacks than in Whites
- 8 times higher in LatinX and Hispanics than in Whites
- 8 times higher in American Indians than in Whites
Social issues that have risen to the top of our collective consciousness during COVID-19 are everyday problems encountered by TB patients and the staff who provide TB care. These include challenges connected to how to pay rent, provide food, and participate in web-based education and training initiatives, etc. when resources are scarce and the primary breadwinner is ordered into isolation. We know from our work in TB that providing individuals with support such as housing, transportation, access to medical care, and food eliminates inequities in treatment outcomes. This approach should also be adopted as we fight COVID-19.
The protests and riots that have spread across the country are a cry for justice. They ask all of us to acknowledge the insidious institutional racism that has existed in this country for centuries. This racism led to the horrific scene in Minneapolis recently where four police officers charged with protecting and serving the citizens of their community tortured and killed George Floyd while he was handcuffed and defenseless on the ground for an interminable eight minutes and forty six seconds. This racism also leads to challenges accessing health care, and ultimately, poor health outcomes. The protestors call on political leaders to bring the nation together to better understand the oppression and end it. This call for justice and equity, including health equity, is now resonating in all 50 states and throughout the world—an uplifting affirmation of humanity.
We, the undersigned affiliated with NTCA, hear these cries for justice and join the call to end racism. We stand with those demanding an immediate end to police violence and racial violence of all kinds. In addition, we stand, united, demanding a thoughtful, systematic, and comprehensive approach to end the health inequities that we witness daily. Addressing these very real health disparities must be our priority as our nation confronts the long-standing impact of institutional racism.
We stand with everyone who cannot breathe.
The 2019-2020 NTCA Board