In a statement issued today, APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, said:

“'I can’t breathe.'

"With those last words, George Floyd, an unarmed, handcuffed black man, died this week after being pinned down by a white Minneapolis police officer, an atrocious action that has sparked outrage throughout the nation.

"We raise our voices, too, horrified, stunned and angered. We are appalled but are not surprised by the despicable way Floyd was killed. We weep for the man, his family and a country that continues to allow this to happen. We also join in the chorus for justice and ring the alarm to all Americans. Racism is a longstanding systemic structure in this country that must be dismantled, through brutally honest conversations, policy changes and practices.

Racism attacks people’s physical and mental health. And racism is an ongoing public health crisis that needs our attention now!

"We see discrimination every day in all aspects of life, including housing, education, the criminal justice system and employment. And it is amplified during this pandemic as communities of color face inequities in everything from a greater burden of COVID-19 cases to less access to testing, treatment and care.

"Americans cannot be silent about this. As Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, 'The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.'

"We refuse to be silent, and we call for you to join us in our advocacy for a healthier nation. At the American Public Health Association, every moment of our waking hours is poured into finding better, more healthful lives for all, so everyone has a chance to breathe. It’s our life-blood."

Tune in to APHA's upcoming webinar series Advancing Racial Equity, which will take an in-depth look at racism as a driving force of the social determinants of health and equity. And learn more about connection between racism and health on APHA's Racism and Health topics page.