Dear Brown School Community,
As many of you are aware, the Missouri NAACP State Conference Office issued a travel advisory for the State of Missouri this summer. This action was in direct response to passage of SB 43, a Missouri bill that makes it significantly more difficult to pursue and win a lawsuit for workplace and housing discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or religion. The perspective of the NAACP is informed by the fact that this legislation was enacted despite well-documented race-based inequities, both historic and current, that continue to adversely impact communities of color.
The passage of this legislation did not acknowledge critically important information contained in the Missouri State Attorney General’s report, which found that black drivers were stopped and searched 75% more often than white drivers. The NAACP Travel Advisory also highlighted additional serious issues in our region, including violence and acts of discrimination on high school and college campuses, as well as injuries and deaths that have occurred in police custody. We understand this advisory, warning residents and travelers to our state about risks of harm or harassment, as reflecting the frustration and fear that is generated by the very real lived experiences of people in our community. For incoming students, faculty and staff, who may be new to St. Louis and Missouri, this statement may be confusing or distressing. Here is what we want you to know. It is critically important that we name and acknowledge the systemic issues that the NAACP is raising. It is also imperative not to reinforce destructive stereotypes about St. Louis and the region.
There is a serious need for a more just local community and at the same time, we recognize the abundance of strengths and commitment to social action in the St. Louis region. Long before the death of Michael Brown and certainly since his tragic loss of life, many in St. Louis have come together and are actively pursuing initiatives focused on achieving racial, social, economic, and health equity and completely eliminating disparities based by race. We are proud of the long tradition of activism in pursuit of social justice and racial equity in St. Louis and the Brown School. Yet, we are also humbled that there is still much work to be done.
At the Brown School, we are elevating the equity agenda and contributing to critically important social change through excellent education, research and community partnerships. We hope that you respond to the NAACP statement feeling even more committed to working for justice in our city and region. The Brown School is the place to get an outstanding graduate education, be active, and advance as a “changemaker.” This year at graduation, we recognized the 10,000 students who have graduated from our school. Our aim is to prepare our new students to join this group, equipped with knowledge, skills and a heightened commitment to advancing equity, eliminating disparities and leading in social work, public health and policy.
Currently, there are several important initiatives underway at the Brown School in partnership with local community-based organizations that actively address structural racism and oppression in all its forms. Additionally, we are offering programming throughout the year focused on racial equity, including opportunities for training students, faculty, staff, and community members on ways that we can engage in effective community organizing and political action. For our students, particularly those of you who are new to St. Louis, we have a number of resources available to help you build community by connecting with student groups, campus resources and community partnerships. We encourage you to learn more about our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity and examples of Brown School community engagement.
In sum, the Brown School is deeply committed to the principles and values of social justice and equity, and we are dedicated to dismantling racism and all other forms of discrimination and bias. This includes vigorously addressing any form of violence or discrimination that occurs at our school or on our campus, while simultaneously working on structural changes needed to prevent such forms of injustice from happening. Through our teaching and research in social work, public health and social policy, we are developing professionals and generating new knowledge to create a more just society.
Neidorff Family and Centene Corporation Dean of the Brown School
Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion & Equity, Associate Professor