Story at a glance

  • NPR reports that multiple CDC employees have outlined racist and discriminatory problems within the CDC.
  • The agency is notoriously private.

As Americans look to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to navigate the country out of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1,000 employees at the CDC have penned a letter documenting “ongoing and recurring acts of racism and discrimination” against Black employees, according to NPR.

The letter reportedly addresses the CDC director Robert Redfield and is dated June 30. Among issues outlined in the letter were the CDC’s handling of the pandemic’s disproportionately adverse effects of Black and Latinx Americans, a lack of diversity among senior leadership, as well as the recent slayings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks. The letter’s authors said that the nationwide calls to address systemic racism in the U.S. have prompted them to raise concerns over the agency’s treatment of people of color. 

“In light of the recent calls for justice across this country and around the world, we, as dedicated public health professionals, can no longer stay silent to the widespread acts of racism and discrimination within CDC that are, in fact, undermining the agency's core mission,” NPR quotes the letter. 

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BREAKING NEWS ABOUT BLACK LIVES MATTER

As of Sunday evening, the letter had 1,0007 signatories composed of CDC staff members, representing approximately 9 percent of the agency’s overall workforce. 

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A CDC spokesperson told reporters that Redfield had seen the letter and that the “CDC is committed to fostering a fair, equitable, and inclusive environment in which staff can openly share their concerns with agency leadership.”

The letter’s signatories also demand that the agency “take immediate, direct action” to address the agency’s “toxic culture,” with one step being to declare racism a public health crisis in the U.S. Additionally, the letter asks for the creation of oversight committees to enforce better diversity practices and address related issues, safe spaces for discussion and revamp the promotion practices among staff and hiring managers.

Implicit bias and cultural sensitivity training is also requested. 

"Systemic racism is not just a concept perpetrated outside these walls," the authors write. "It is a crushing reality for people of color in their daily lived experiences here at CDC."

This letter comes as the CDC has been considerably quiet during the pandemic, only restarting press debriefings in June after months of hiatus while the pandemic continued to spread throughout the U.S. 

Black Lives Matter protests also ensued simultaneously, highlighting the institutional racism that has permeated the U.S. since the country’s inception. While the protests call attention to police brutality against people of color, the movement also highlights the socioeconomic marginalization that accompanies overt racism, similar to what the CDC letter speaks to. 

“We are hurt. We are angry. We are exhausted," the authors state in the letter. "And ultimately, we fear that, despite the global protests, little will be done to address the systemic racism we face each and every day.”


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Published on Jul 13, 2020