Letter from CFR Co-Directors About Police Brutality and COVID-19

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

We want to express our profound sadness and anger about the senseless and brutal deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black Americans before them. The unjustifiable loss of so many Black lives at the hands of police is an outrage, an outrage with a 400-year-long history of systematic oppression and violence. This system propagates many inequities and health disparities among people of color, including disproportionate effects from and vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are university professors and directors of the Center for Family Research, a center defined by the mission of conducting research that addresses the disparities in health and well-being that Black families experience. For 30 years, we have been visiting the homes of Black families across rural Georgia to collect data that help us to understand their lives and form partnerships to develop prevention programs based on Black families’ resilience. We are grateful to the many, many Black family members and stakeholders who have participated in our studies, and we reject the systemic racism that undermines the health, the well-being—sometimes the very lives—of our Black research participants, community research partners, staff, and colleagues. We are also grateful for the recent and ongoing efforts of community organizers, religious leaders, politicians, educators, and criminal justice system reformers across the country who have organized to highlight injustice and bring about change.

As researchers, we believe that truth can be an instrument of progress. Because the underpinnings of racism are based on untruths, research has a role to play in undermining systemic racism. We reflect on the words of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative:

“The great evil of American slavery wasn’t the involuntary servitude; it was the fiction that black people aren’t as good as white people, and aren’t the equals of white people, and are less evolved, less human, less capable, less worthy, less deserving than white people. That ideology of white supremacy was necessary to justify enslavement, and it is the legacy of slavery that we haven’t acknowledged.”

It is hard work to challenge this deeply entrenched lie; hard work that requires the efforts of activists, researchers, and people in their everyday lives, working together. At CFR, we will double-down on our commitment to this mission. We will continue to engage in research that examines the corrosive and deadly effects of racism. We will document the ways in which Black families and communities protect youth and nurture their development despite the many manifestations of racism they experience in their daily lives. We will expand our efforts to disseminate programs that affirm the humanity and dignity of Black Americans. As researchers and individuals, we are dedicated to creating a country in which we all want to live.  

With Sincere Commitment,

Gene H. Brody, Director, Center for Family Research

Steven R. H. Beach, Co-Director, Center for Family Research