Sanford Heisler Sharp Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee Statement on Black History Month

On behalf of Sanford Heisler Sharp’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, we sincerely hope everyone had a joyous and meaningful Black History Month. On the last day of February, we would like to take this time to remind ourselves that the commitment to justice and equity is one we proudly carry throughout the year. Today, we reflect on this year’s Black History Month theme—Black Health and Wellness.[1]

Racism in the American healthcare system has a tangible effect on medical outcomes for Black Americans. For example, a study of white medical students performed in May 2020 showed that many wrongly believed that Black people have a higher tolerance for pain than their white counterparts.[2] That study found that 73% of participants held at least one false belief regarding biological differences between races.[3] Racially rooted biases and stereotypes such as these can and often do combine with socioeconomic disparities to have deadly consequences for Black patients. In addition to prejudice encountered from healthcare providers, Black Americans are 10% less likely to be admitted to the hospital than white patients and 1.26 times more likely to die in the emergency room or hospital. Black mothers are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white mothers, and Black newborns face the highest infant mortality rate in the country at 11 deaths for every 1,000 births—more than double the mortality rate for white and Latinx infants.[4]

Black Americans and their allies have confronted the stark realities of medical racism to promote the physical, mental, and emotional wellness of Black people in America. Black Americans have led efforts in mutual aid and social support initiatives, building hospitals, medical and nursing schools, and community clinics in order to assist their communities in countering disparities that run rampant in our healthcare system.[5] During Black History Month and throughout the year, we celebrate the efforts of these trailblazers and remind ourselves that the struggle against racism is fought on many fronts. We encourage anyone interested in learning more or supporting racial justice organizations to consult resources such as those provided below.

At the end of this year’s Black History Month, we look ahead to the future with hope. As a committee, we are encouraged by the fact that Black leaders and their allies are pushing back against racism and its many manifestations on a daily basis and helping to shape our evolving understanding of what racism means. We celebrate the elevation of Black Americans to important roles in our government— most recently, with President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court of the United States. We encourage the United States Senate to swiftly confirm the president’s eminently qualified nominee. We share the sentiment of Sanford Heisler Sharp Chairman David Sanford on Judge Jackson’s historic nomination:

“It makes me truly delighted think of Justice Brown Jackson: she is most qualified and would be the first Justice since Thurgood Marshall with experience as a criminal defense attorney. It also infuriates me, as we know that Judge Brown Jackson will be the first African American woman on the Court since the formation of the Court in 1790. 115 persons have served on the Supreme Court in our history; it is long overdue to have an African American woman serve in that role. My sincere hope is that President Biden nominates either Judge Childs or Judge Kruger should another vacancy occur on the high court. Perhaps one day we will have a second African American woman as United States Supreme Court Justice. That would be a day of true celebration.”

In the meantime and until we are truly all free of the scourge of racism, we must all do our part to combat the barriers to racial justice both large and small. With that understanding, we sincerely wish everyone had a very happy Black History Month and encourage everyone to maintain this focus on racial justice throughout the rest of the year.

- Sanford Heisler Sharp Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

Black Health and Wellness resources: https://www.canva.com/design/DAE0pIvaZ70/jxZoLxah7BMIksaeZpunQ/view?website#1

Racial Justice Organizations: https://voiceofwitness.org/racial-justice-organizations/