Do No Harm and Make Change Now
At the Center for Arts in Medicine, we believe black lives matter, we believe indigenous lives matter. Asian lives matter. Latinx lives matter. Every life has equal value and potential and all people should be able to lead healthy and prosperous lives. Arts and culture are integral partners in the realization of healthier, more equitable lives for all people everywhere. As those who work with the arts to enhance the health and wellbeing of all people, we have a deep responsibility to do no harm. And, because accepting and perpetuating systems of colonialism, oppression and racism is doing harm, we have a responsibility to work to undo and change these systems - not in theory, but in action. Visible and meaningful action, every day. Understanding that we have not yet achieved the equity we seek in our program, in our university, or in the discipline of arts in health, we humbly approach this work with 'a steadfast commitment to see this task through to completion' (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and an intention to ensure that the Center for Arts in Medicine, 'bends towards justice' (Dr. Martin Luther King) every day.
We acknowledge that we are a research-based academic unit at a predominantly white institute of higher education and that this institution has a long history of unjust and racist practices and policies rooted in anti-BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) white supremacy. We acknowledge that the Center for Arts in Medicine has benefited from these systems of racism.
We understand that research and community engagement practices, as well as the agenda of the entities that fund them, are deeply entrenched in colonial, racist values and systems. They have painful histories of exploiting and extracting knowledge, information and resources from the people and communities who participate in research, and those that they seek to serve. In our research and community engagement, we see need and opportunity to reshape policies and practices in alignment with anti-racist approaches.
We understand there are institution-level academic processes rooted in structural racism that are restrictive and unwelcoming, and fail to support the success of students of color, particularly black and indigenous people. In our academic programs, we see an opportunity to reshape policies and practices in alignment with anti-racist approaches, such as establishing unbiased admission metrics and identifying processes that support successful degree program completion.
We understand that our institution upholds hiring and retention processes that center whiteness and western standards of professionalism. In hiring processes, we see need and opportunity to reshape our policies and practices in alignment with anti-racist approaches, such as identifying and ending biased hiring and evaluation metrics, and adoption of a broad range of workstyles.
We understand that arts and culture are among the most powerful means for speaking truth and making change. Yet, we understand that the arts - as a sector and collection of disciplines in this country - has a history of racist, hierarchical, and exclusionary practices, including beliefs in the superiority of European/white culture and artistic practices, appropriation of artistic and cultural practices, and theft of artistic works and cultural artifacts.
Aspirations and Commitments
We are deeply committed to Anti-Racism. We are committed to achieving equity through awareness and action. We are committed to doing our part toward dismantling the ongoing legacies and injustices of colonialism, oppression and racism in the Center for Arts in Medicine, in the field of arts in health, on our campus, and in our country. We are committed to actively leaning into discomfort in order to understand, learn and create change anywhere injustice exists or harm has been done. We invite feedback and pushback, and want to be held accountable in our commitment to this work.
We are taking action in these ways, among others:
Our faculty and staff participated in the 2½-day Undoing Racism Community Organizing Workshop with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) in 2019. We have continued to engage in follow-up work with PISAB, and in structured dialogues with our faculty, staff and community members who participated in the program together.
We engage as a Center in reading and discussion of texts such as Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist and la paperson’s A Third University is Possible, and attend lectures and presentations on the topic of antiracism together.
We have contracted with a curriculum equity consultant for one year (so far) to support and guide our faculty in conducting curriculum and course equity audits in the 2020-21 academic year. These audits are intended to identify and address where racism, white supremacy and white saviorism are present in our curricula and in the discipline of arts in health, and to identify where BIPOC voices, histories, traditions and practices are missing or need to be centered.
We work closely with prospective BIPOC applicants to our academic programs to build strong applications. We also rely on a holistic admission process that reduces the emphasis on historically racist measures, such as GPA, and removes GRE testing requirements.
We are launching (spring 2021) an internal systems equity audit to examine our practices, processes and systems related to - for example - student life-cycles (movement through our programs from inquiry to graduation and alumni engagement), faculty and staff hiring, management, promotion and retention, and communications.
In April of 2021, we will implement a Center for Arts in Medicine Equity Working Group, led by students who are compensated for their time and effort, to host discussions and to identify and make plans for addressing equity issues and advancing equity within the Center.
We are applying an anti-racist frame to our research practices and processes, and are explicitly investigating disparities and racism in our own research agendas.
As a visible and influential member of the field of arts in health, we are developing and offering anti-racism programming and resources, such as our webinars and Anti-racism Arts Response Repository, an open-access repository designed to highlight and enable impactful arts-based responses to racism, especially highlighting work undertaken since the murder of George Floyd, to support individuals and communities in building their own power through the arts.
Photo Credit: Unsplash