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Committing to antiracism in the veterinary profession

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Black lives matter.

As worldwide protests focus long-overdue attention on systemic racism in the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and many other Black individuals, many of us are beginning to question our own thoughts and previous actions. The reality that people of color are often treated very differently by institutions and structures in place as well as by individuals is a new and profound realization for many. One sobering example comes from a study highlighted on Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge website. Black job candidates in the US were more likely to get an interview when they “whitened” their names: 25% of Black candidates received calls after submitting whitened resumes, while only 10% got callbacks when they left ethnic details on their applications. The veterinary profession, less racially diverse than many, is having particularly uncomfortable conversations. Many of us recognize this disparity isn’t right and want to better understand what is happening and be part of the solution, but we aren’t sure how to best move forward.  

Educating ourselves is the first step. Understanding the myriad ways racism hurts not only people of color, but all of us, as well as our profession, is important and necessary to provide context and appreciation of the magnitude of the issue in order to help propel us to act. And we do need to act—it is not enough to be merely against racism. We need to be antiracist. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, vital roles within the veterinary profession are projected to grow nearly 20% from 2018–2028.1,2 That means plenty of opportunities will be available for veterinary professionals in the coming years. If each of us commits to continuously take the necessary steps to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable profession, we can do our part in creating a safer, more just society for the Black community.

This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we will very likely make mistakes or say the wrong thing along the way. Don’t let that scare you away from doing the work that’s necessary. Listen and learn when you need to. Course correction shows growth and positive change, so don’t let your ego or guilt get in the way.

Below are steps that you can take right now toward becoming an antiracist practice, professional, and individual. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are plenty of other resources that are just a Google search away. Use these to get started, but continue to learn and do better every day.

Practice

  1. Expand your recruitment efforts to include a more diverse representation of universities, colleges, and high schools. Start with historically black colleges and universities that offer preveterinary or related programs, 17 of which are listed here.
  2. Introduce mandatory antiracism or anti-oppression training for all employees. Consultants like Regan Byrd offer remote private training for businesses.
  3. Read Navigating Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine, which provides a clear road map toward inclusiveness and cultural competency in the veterinary profession.
  4. Discover the benefits of diversity in the veterinary profession.

Professional

  1. Sponsor a membership with the BlackDVM Network or get involved with the National Association for Black Veterinarians or the Multicultural Veterinary Medical Association.
  2. Enroll in Purdue University’s online certificate program for Diversity & Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine.
  3. Listen to or watch the AAVMC’s Diversity and Inclusion on Air.
  4. Understand oppression, power, and privilege by brushing up on the definitions.
  5. Register for Making a Change: From Comfort Zone to Brave Spaces, a free AVMA Axon webinar presented by Lisa Greenhill, EdD.

Individual

  1. Become more comfortable talking about race with the National Museum of African American History & Culture’s resources for educators, parents or caregivers, and individuals committed to equity.
  2. Educate yourself by watching documentaries like 13th on Netflix or reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, PhD.
  3. Review this open-source Guide to Allyship to better understand what an ally is and how to be an effective one.
  4. Turn ideals into action by calling out racist actions you see in your daily life and push racial justice forward every day.
  5. Make sure you’re registered and vote in all elections.

Sources

  1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2020. “Veterinarians: Occupational Outlook Handbook.” gov/OOH/healthcare/veterinarians.htm#tab-6.
  2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2020. “Veterinary Technologists and Technicians: Occupational Outlook Handbook.” gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm.

Photo credit: © iStock/Josie Desmarias