Global Health Equity Requires Racial Justice

Lake Gashora, Rwanda

Over the last several years in the US, we’ve seen increasingly publicized incidents of police brutality and gun violence that are inextricably linked to race. The recent needless deaths of several African Americans have brought deeply rooted and long-standing tensions around systemic racial inequality in the US to a new boiling point. As a result, there has been deep reflection, there has been outcry, and there has been action.

Race is a leading social determinant of health in the United States and worldwide, and thus health equity is inextricably tied to racial justice. We are a global community of emerging leaders united by the belief that health is a human right. We recognize that this right has too often been denied to black people (and other people of color) in the United States and around the world. We will simply not have equitable health systems until all people are free to live, love, hope, dream, and achieve alongside one other, regardless of race or zip code.

It is a painful moment to be awake in a world where such injustice, violence, and oppression persist. In the current climate, fear abounds. Fear lies at the heart of all acts of violence, and our most powerful antidotes to fear are connection and empathy. As individuals committed to social justice and connection with one another, we must cultivate these values as we condemn systemic racism and fight all its ugly manifestations.

“You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.” — Maya Angelou

This is a pivotal moment for our community to acknowledge and shine light on these issues, including the public health implications of gun violence and racial injustice, while we ask ourselves and each other what more we can and must do. This hard, important work takes many forms: owning our privilege, doubling down on efforts to ensure diverse representation in all fields, raising our voices and creating space for others to raise theirs, combatting stigma, advocating for just policies and laws, and ensuring equal access to resources, just to name a few.

As we commit to this work daily, we must lean on each other for comfort, support, and courage. We must call each other out and call each other in. We must show up courageously in these spaces, with the willingness to be vulnerable and connect, and the mindfulness of self-care. We must gain strength from our anger, turning it into life-giving power to make change in our world.

Global Health Corps is a leadership development organization committed to building a global movement of passionate and brilliant individuals who are dedicated to dismantling oppressive systems and rebuilding equitable ones in their place.

We are committed to creating space for our community of leaders to activate and engage on issues of social justice while also connecting and healing; we are committed to fostering and nurturing each other’s voices so they ring out loudly and powerfully; and we are committed to never shying away from difficult conversations and painful issues.