Dear Faculty, Staff, Trainees and Students:
Last Friday, a verdict of not guilty was announced in the case of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer who was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. We are only three years out from the social tumult that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. While we may have made some progress in promoting effective, community-based policing and have engaged in meaningful cross-cultural dialogue about race-relations in St. Louis, we have had insufficient time to resolve the systemic issues of poverty, social fragmentation and racial distrust that have plagued our region. Unfortunately, it was just a matter of time before another tragic event unroofed the past emotional wounds from Ferguson and other events that have occurred across the U.S. The impact of this verdict is likely felt in many different ways by members of our community. Among some there is palpable anger, even frank rage, while among others, memories of uncertainty return and a sense of alienation may arise as they grapple with the decision against a background of current and historical social injustices which have been made worse by the recent upsurge in hate speech and demonstrations that have spurred acts of violence.
We do not have a choice about the verdict that was rendered. We do, however, have control over how we personally and institutionally move forward. We know that public safety is on the minds of many in our community. It is important for all members of our community to know that they are respected, valued, and safe and a vital part of creating a positive culture on our campus. Our state and local government officials and religious leaders have been public about their preparations to ensure everyone’s safety. Our university, city, and county law enforcement and emergency teams have been working overtime to ensure that travel remains safe and accessible to and from Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM). Chancellor Mark Wrighton and Dean David Perlmutter have called for peaceful, constructive, and meaningful actions toward addressing social inequity in our region.
At the School of Medicine, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion has scheduled a Perspective Dialogue Circle: Reflections on St. Louis for anyone who wishes to take time to reflect, learn, and discuss ways to promote change and healing. Additionally, we have resources such as our Department of Medicine Office of Inclusion and Diversity, WUSM Office of Diversity and Inclusion, our Office of Diversity Programs, and our WUSM Human Relations (HR) consultants for those who need more information. We will continue to provide additional information as it becomes available. If you have concerns or need assistance, please feel free to contact one of us as well. Now more than ever, we as a community must work diligently to promote equity and social justice for all and ensure safe and inclusive environments at work and in the community. We must take the time to listen and understand each other’s backgrounds, emotions, viewpoints and concerns and create safe spaces for dialogue. Then we can emerge from these turbulent times more inclusive, respectful and empowered to promote change and healing in the future.
Joseph Pangelinan, PhD, L.P.C Vicky Fraser, MD Will Ross, MD, MPH
Director of Cultural Awareness Professor of Medicine Associate Dean for Diversity
and Diversity Chairman, Dept of Professor of Medicine
Assistant Professor of Medicine Medicine