Dr. Marc Gorelick, president and CEO, progressive pediatrics blog

Please don’t look the other way

When video of George Floyd’s murder flashed around the world in 2020, it was no longer possible for people who are white, like me, to look the other way. It was impossible to minimize, rationalize or deny the racism in our community and our country.

There was so much momentum in the following weeks and months. People channeled their horror into action. As James Burroughs, our chief equity and inclusion officer, says, “Floyd’s murder shouldn’t have been a catalyst. We all should have been working to eliminate racial disparities already.” That’s true, and at Children’s Minnesota, we had already started addressing health disparities within our health system. 

But Floyd’s murder was a catalyst. And that catalyst is three years old now. For some, the urgency of 2020 is waning. It’s not hard to become distracted by other pressing needs. As businesses, as individuals, we all have competing priorities.  

Still I would argue that with three years of perspective, we have an even greater responsibility today – to do the work AND to keep ourselves and each other motivated. Because no single person or organization has the resources or creativity to find solutions on their own; we must do it together, help one other along, teach each other and learn from each other.  

For us at Children’s Minnesota, addressing health disparities is part of our mission. We exist to champion the health needs of kids and families. All families. Action steps aimed at addressing health disparities in our clinics and hospitals, and in the community, are woven throughout our strategic plan. We have a clear imperative. But you don’t have to be a health system to understand that all companies have a responsibility and important role to play.

That’s the idea behind the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity, of which we are a founding member. The MBCRE leads dozens of businesses in “building an equitable, inclusive and prosperous state with and for Black residents.” Racial equity is a business imperative no matter if you’re a small nonprofit or a large multinational corporation. We need to take care of people while we’re taking care of the bottom line. It’s good for business; if customers and employees are doing better, businesses will do better.  

And it’s simply the right thing to do.

Three years after George Floyd’s murder, we need to continually remind each other that we must prioritize this work. Build it into our strategic plans. Measure our progress. Investigate our shortcomings. Hold each other accountable. Have hard conversations.  

We’ve made some progress at Children’s Minnesota in some areas. And there are places where it’s taking longer to move the needle. We need to be honest about that. Supplier diversity for example. We went from 1% to 6% procuring goods and materials from businesses owned by people who are Black, Native, Latino Asian, veterans, women and/or who have disabilities. It’s progress, but it’s not good enough – yet. We’re moving in the right direction, but we need to be a lot further along before we call it a win.

James Burroughs and I recently sat down with our counterparts from other Minneapolis health systems to talk about the impact George Floyd’s murder has had on our work to advance health equity. The conversation was hosted by the American Hospital Association. You can watch it here.

Minnesota is a wonderful place in many ways, for many people. But we also have stark health, educational and economic disparities. Our Community Health Needs Assessment shows that among the issues affecting the health of our kids, systemic racism and health disparities are at the top of the list. 

Until we close these gaps, we all lose out on being a fully prosperous state where all Minnesotans thrive. So that means we all have a role to play in eliminating disparities in our community. The work is too important to look the other way.

Dr. Marc Gorelick

Marc Gorelick, MD
President, chief executive officer

Marc Gorelick, MD, is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) at Children's Minnesota. He is deeply committed to advocacy issues that impact children's health, sustainability and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.

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Alexandra Rothstein