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Social Justice Initiatives

Department of Biostatistics Antiracism Declaration and Commitments to Action

This is a living document. We will improve it as our understanding grows and our efforts mature.


We, the leadership, faculty, staff, postdoctoral trainees, and students of the Department of Biostatistics, publicly denounce racism in all its forms. Racism comes in the form of personal prejudice and bigotry: We will not tolerate these in our community. But we must clearly recognize that racism also manifests through institutional structures and policies that advantage some racial groups and harm others, and it is systemically embedded throughout American society. Therefore, our responsibility goes beyond interpersonal fairness and respect and encompasses institutional and societal change as well. This responsibility goes to the heart of our mission as biostatisticians and health data scientists because Racism Is A Public Health Problem.


Systemic racism persists in the United States. It has taken many forms and affected numerous racial/ethnic groups, and nearly all nonwhite groups, over the nation's history. Racism against two groups was so integral in the nation’s founding that we emphasize them specifically:

  • Anti-black racism in North America originally was manifest in the enslavement of Africans—one of history’s monumental atrocities and injustices. African captives were present in large numbers, brought by the Spanish, in the century preceding the British settlement at Jamestown. After slavery was abolished, policies quickly were put in place that assured fundamentally unequal access to the opportunities, justice, protections, norms, and respectful treatment afforded others.
  • When Europeans arrived in North America, the continent already was inhabited by millions of indigenous inhabitants. Subsequent colonization decimated this population. Lands were overrun and appropriated, leaving only tiny parcels to tribal groups by the late 1800s. Government policies and programs followed having as their aim to eradicate Native American culture. Our School sits on Piscataway land.

Led by the efforts of Black Americans, Native Americans, and other oppressed groups, our society thankfully has progressed. However deep inequity remains, fueled by the propagation of disadvantage, initiated generations ago together with continued racism in the nation’s institutions, structures, policies, and individuals. Much work to eradicate this inequity remains. We dedicate ourselves to this work.

*Antiracism definition: active and consistent process of change to eliminate individual, institutional, and systemic racism.

Commitments to Antiracist Action

  1. Learn. Many of us are well-meaning, but blind, to the full extent of racism remaining in our society, higher education, our University and School, and ourselves. We pledge to learn so that we can clearly see the work needing to be done. Actions to achieve this:
    1. Learn together about the history of racism at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and in Baltimore through readings, invited speakers, and facilitated discussions. Specifically we will do the following:
      1. Racism/antiracism at JHSPH: Invite our historian, Dr. Karen Thomas, to present on racism in our school and department, as in her talk: The School and the City: Baltimore’s Impact on Public Health. Invite Joel Bolling to lead discussion.
      2. Racism in Baltimore and Beyond: Discuss the following: history of redlining in Baltimore; the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2016 findings that Baltimore police used “enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of Stops, Searches and Arrests of African Americans”; the role played by statisticians (and science more broadly) in racism and eugenics; anti-immigrant, xenophobic racism. Declare our opposition to all such racism.
      3. Incorporate antiracism into our ScM, MHS, and PhD curricula, e.g., discussion of how statistics are misused to support racist policies (and same for AI/ML), encourage elective courses in Social Epidemiology and Health Disparities.
    2. Learn about ways to change racist policies and structures:
      1. Monthly reading/discussion group on antiracism to discuss books/articles/podcasts (especially those written by people of color) such as in the Cloud-Based Data Science Plus Antiracism Resource Directory
      2. Participate in School-wide Antiracism Workshop Series.
      3. Learn from what other departments at JHSPH and what other schools of public health are doing to address racism.
      4. Invite outside experts to train us in best practices for promoting antiracism in the workplace, e.g., from Baltimore Racial Justice Action, Antiracism At Work, and/or Race Forward.
  2. Build. Before we can change the world, we must order our own house. We must clearly recognize, and correct, barriers preventing the inclusion of more under-represented individuals in our community. We also must strive toward equality among students, faculty, and staff already in our department. Actions to achieve this:
    1. Improve recruitment, retention, and promotion of historically disadvantaged students, postdoctoral trainees, staff, and faculty.
      1. Examine our student recruiting/admissions/retention process and our faculty and staff recruitment/hiring/retention process to find and implement ways to increase inclusion of under-represented minorities (in terms or race, sex, and class). This will be done before the upcoming admissions cycle. Provide departmental funding for recruitment outreach to institutions such as historically black colleges and universities.
      2. Provide departmental funding for under-represented minority postdoc position(s), and similar for ScM and PhD students. Incentivize applying for the Provost Diversity Fellow program. Encourage mentoring of URM summer undergraduates.
      3. Review our curriculum and methods of assessment (including comprehensive exams) to ensure that they do not advantage any one group over others. A specific motivation for this is in the article here.
    2. Consider ways to increase equity in how our department is governed, giving more voice to students, postdocs, staff, and scientist track faculty. (There is always room for improvement, and we can be leaders in this.) Consider ways to reduce inequality in compensation/income among different groups in our department, e.g., faculty and staff.
    3. Express our unwavering support for under-represented minorities and immigrant/international students/staff/faculty in our department by denouncing racist comments and policies. Promote cultural mixers and student journal clubs on antiracism.
  3. Raise up. Our own city of Baltimore has a deep and complex history of racial inequity and injustice. There is much to be done locally, and we pledge to work toward reducing racial and other inequality in our department, school, and community. Actions to achieve this:
    1. Devote department resources to incentivize direct involvement in the Baltimore community such as at Baltimore City Public Schools, and through other community organizations. Engage regularly with SOURCE about potential opportunities including service-learning courses.
    2. Invite Baltimore community organizations to speak to us on ways that we may be able to contribute, e.g., Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Baltimore.
  4. Transform. As data scientists, we are uniquely empowered to shine a light on the evidence base that can drive real and lasting change. Eliminating health disparities is of critical importance to our mission to improve health. Such a mission cannot be accomplished without also eradicating structural racism as this precludes the prerequisites that make health in all its aspects possible. To accomplish this broader mission is a societal imperative that we as biostatisticians must fight to realize. Actions to achieve this:
    1. Encourage further engagement in health disparities research (e.g., we can invite Drs. Lisa Cooper and John Jackson to speak on this and how we can contribute).
    2. Evaluate Baltimore City data available from Open Baltimore on transportation (to weigh in on how to improve public transit scheduling), on police (to assess fairness in arrest patterns), etc.
    3. Research for antiracism advocacy: find knowledge gaps where we could contribute to understanding how to effectively change policies/structures to promote antiracism; e.g., what changes to policing are effective?
    4. Join Cloud-Based Data Science Plus.
    5. Join other researchers in our department who are leading health equity research projects including Nilanjan Chatterjee and Karen Bandeen-Roche.

Interested in getting involved? Email Michael Rosenblum, the Department's IDARE Coordinator with the subject line - IDARE.