Directing our Work and Talents Toward Justice

Friday, June 5, 2020

A Message from IMPAQ President Dr. Adaeze Enekwechi

The past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for many of us. I have spent considerable time processing recent events—with family, colleagues, and on my own. The emotions against injustice and inequity are sometimes difficult to compartmentalize as we work. I share my thoughts with the wider IMPAQ community to hopefully move us forward in our discussion, and channel our frustrations and energy constructively for a better society.

In the wake of the senseless murders of many Black people including Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, our country is reeling from the painful reminder of the prevalence of racial discrimination in our law enforcement systems and beyond. The fact is, these traumatizing videos captured on cell phones represent a tiny fraction of the heinous, racially-motivated encounters with some people and some police. Black people do not need to be reminded of this injustice—navigating systems of oppression and violence is part of our everyday lives.

Long-standing systemic biases in the justice system, but also in education, health care, and other institutions meant to serve all people, have grown more insidious with time. Only by calling them out as unacceptable and keeping them in the spotlight do we stand a chance to dismantle them through action.

My son was only 10 years old when I began to panic about him riding his bike in our neighborhood. Now as a young teenager, and at six-feet-tall, I worry about him going out in public wearing his mask in the midst of this pandemic. I know all too well that my gentle boy is perceived as a threat by many, and a simple act of following public health guidelines can have a dramatically tragic outcome for him.

In an article I co-authored earlier this year, It’s Time to Address the Role of Implicit Bias within Health Care Delivery, I shared examples of the lived experiences of people of color as they attempt to access health care services. In the piece, I argued that systemic issues require systemic solutions. Change must be made at the highest levels of leadership. It requires admitting that the status quo is not working.

From investigating how we address health equity amidst COVID-19, to promoting access to nutrition, issues of racial justice are inextricably linked to the challenges we work to solve here at IMPAQ. I believe that the evidence and solutions we are developing to increase access to health care, job training, and other social programs both in the United States and abroad, can and will contribute to building a more equitable world.

Lasting change takes time. We have to keep the conversation going in our personal lives, in our communities, and in our places of work. I have been overwhelmed by the meaningful messages I have received from IMPAQ staff in recent days, sharing their ideas for improving our diversity and inclusion efforts, from our interns all the way to leadership. Nothing is more important than practicing the ideals of equity we espouse for our country, here in our own company. We still have further to go.

Over the past week, as I witnessed my children surrounded by news and commentary about people who look like them, murdered unjustly, my advice was this: channel your anger and frustration into something positive. My 11-year-old daughter wrote letters to her Senators and representative, using the word “furious” to describe her feelings, and sharing that she doesn’t want to worry about this in her future.  I could not be more proud.

Some of us are still processing and mourning and that is okay. When you are ready, I challenge each of you, and myself, to do what I advised my children—channel your outrage. Find a way to use your voice, your skills, and your network to stand up for those who have been silenced and marginalized for far too long. At home, in your workplace, and at the voting booth—we all can bring about positive change. The time is now.