It is a disheartening reality that I must write to you again about racism. The Department of Internal Medicine affirms our full support and concern for members of our Asian and Asian American community, including those of Pacific Islander and Pan Asian descent (AAPI). The shocking killings in Atlanta targeting women and Asians have shaken us all and reminded many of us that an ugly and violent undercurrent of racism toward Asians has run deeply in the United States for too long. Any form that racism takes—overt or in subtle microagressions—is intolerable and we make it clear here and now that we stand beside and support all who feel threatened or in danger. Such hatred has no place in our department, college, or university, where we strive to value every individual because of their difference, not in spite of it. We appreciate the statement of support last week from university leadership and we endorse its message and its recommendations for assistance to anyone who feels unsafe. Each of us has a responsibility to protect each other and to speak up when we see or hear something that runs counter to our values.
The rise in anti-Asian violence and aggression has been well documented, particularly over the last year, but its existence is not new. It has roots in misinformation, offensive stereotypes, and mistrust, potentially stoked by the language of elected leaders. This particular moment has brought into sharp focus what many have tried to overlook but can now no longer ignore. We will not let this pass without open recognition of the negative impact of racism, and our department is prepared to redouble its efforts in our anti-racist work.
The challenge of preventing future harm to any vulnerable member of our community hinges on a commitment from all of us to reckon with the past and to adopt new modes of thinking and interacting that hastens the arrival of a more inclusive society. Our Vice Chair for Diversity Dr. Nicole Nisly will be organizing a listening session in the coming days so that we can freely talk about our feelings and strategize regarding the best ways to support each other moving forward.
The department recognizes the exceptional contributions of our Asian faculty, clinicians, staff, trainees, and students to our missions at Iowa and to our culture at large. Your contributions are immeasurable and as much a facet of the American experience as anyone else’s. It should be understood, but we will state it here so there is no confusion: you are welcome here, you are essential here. We know that this moment is painful for many different reasons, but we encourage anyone who is feeling unsafe or would like to report any instances of bias or discrimination to reach out to any of us in leadership or to contact the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Just as George Floyd’s murder galvanized us to treat racism against Black Americans like the public health crisis that it is, so too let us see this tragedy in Atlanta as a reminder that our work is far from over and must be expanded. We are committed to working together for a better future for our communities and for the cause of human health, to which I know you are already dedicated.