Jul 13, 2020 - Health

More than 1,000 CDC employees call out "ongoing and recurring acts of racism"

The CDC Headquarters.

Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

More than 1,000 employees at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have signed a letter highlighting "ongoing and recurring acts of racism and discrimination" against Black employees at the agency, NPR reports.

The state of play: By Sunday evening, about 9% of the agency's workers had signed the letter, which claims the CDC has fostered an "oppressive monoculture that stifles the growth of Black professionals and inhibits their ability to fully contribute their talents and skills."

  • It states that Black employees comprise of only 10% of senior leadership and 6% of CDC's 2019 class of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, described as a training program for future leadership.
  • It also alleges that white managers regularly promote white staff while restricting "the advancement of Black employees in the workplace."
  • Black employees "routinely experience bullying, excessive criticism, hostility, implicit bias and overt racism from white colleagues with little recourse," the letter states, claiming it has created a "culture of exclusion and racial discrimination."

The big picture: The grievances in the letter are placed in the context of the coronavirus' disproportionate impact on Black Americans, alongside the ongoing protests against systemic racism. It asks that the agency declare racism a public health crisis in the U.S.

  • "Failing to address racism as a fundamental cause of health disparities is a key reason why we have witnessed little progress in reducing many of these disparities in the United States over the past 50 years," the letter states.
  • The signatories ask for a number of workplace-related changes at the CDC, including implicit bias training and increasing the number of Black employees in leadership.

Read the letter, obtained by NPR:

Go deeper