What the doctor ordered: Richard Besser (MD) on the Hannah-Jones issue

Truer words have never been spoken:

“At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we are committed to achieving health and racial equity by dismantling cultural racism, ” Besser wrote. “A growing body of evidence shows the role that structural racism and discrimination play in health disparities for people of color in the United States. A recent New England Journal of Medicine article – which I co-authored with Dr. David Williams, a preeminent scholar on race and health and Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, former RWJF President and CEO – outlined the clear and historic pattern of disparities in the health of Black people and other minority groups as compared with White people in the United States. These findings are not the result of a singular act or policy, rather they stem from historic and systemic racist policies and structures which can be insidious or overt.”

No matter how they try to justify or rationalize the decision to deny tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, the practical effect is discrimination and disparate treatment. It is what it is, and not what you want it to be. The same goes for Walter Hussman, and his denial that he tried to intervene. There are e-mails detailing his intervention, FFS. More from Dr. Besser:

“It’s in this context that we express our concerns – shared by UNC leadership, faculty, students as well as other funders and partners of the university – about the UNC Board’s failure to approve academic tenure to journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones,” Besser wrote. “Ms. Hannah-Jones has had a stellar career in journalism. Her outstanding work as a journalist and researcher has significantly contributed to raising up issues of historic interpersonal and structural racism in America.”

“To honor our commitment to ethical conduct and practices, we ask that the UNC Board help us understand the steps it is taking to ensure that Ms. Hannah-Jones is treated fairly and equitably in decisions regarding her appointment,” Besser wrote. “We are also seeking assurance that the board of UNC, as part of its fiduciary and oversight responsibilities, is actively engaged in monitoring policies and procedures to ensure that UNC’s workplace is nondiscriminatory and respectful.”

Many lessons can be learned from this debacle, but here's one that bears close attention: When Roy Cooper won the Gubernatorial election back in 2016, Berger & Moore took it upon themselves to strip away his powers before Cooper could be sworn in. And appointments to University Boards was one of those power grabs. Aside from the sheer hubris of such behavior, it is painfully obvious GOP leaders cannot handle that task on their own without screwing everything up. "Mismanagement" doesn't even cover the damage they've done, and are continuing to do, with each passing day.

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