Vivent Health Stands in Solidarity with the Nation

At the core of our mission statement is our belief that every person has value and should be treated with respect. Confronting systemic racism and working for justice for people of color, LGBTQIA folks, women and other marginalized people means acknowledging and deconstructing privilege.

Vivent Health President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Gifford shared the following email with all our Champions. We are continuing to share it with our friends and supporters as an insight into how we are working to live out our mission.

To all our Vivent Health Champions,

This morning as I was leaving the house to go downtown for my weekly food pantry deliveries and without a thought I kissed our oldest daughter on the forehead.  She was looking forward to a day out and about seeing her boyfriend for the first time in months and would be gone all day.  We joked about how late she was going to be out and talked about connecting when she got home. It was one of those easy, quick and enjoyable conversations to start the day.

My exchange with our daughter is also one seeped in White Privilege.  Never really having to be overly concerned about your child’s wellbeing.  Knowing it was going to be ok and knowing that a kiss goodnight lay ahead.  Many recent events in our society, chief among them the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, have demonstrated how different it is for our black colleagues.

I am grateful for Champions who have reached out to me to share their anger and worry.  I appreciate the texts about being a black mother and the fear one lives with.  I had a long conversation with Theresa Dear this morning and she helped me appreciate in raw, stark terms the psychological and generational trauma associated with such tragedies.

These frequent tragedies must stop.  It is what fuels these tragedies and dehumanizes our fellow black Americans that needs to be defeated:  Racism.

The cause of death for George Floyd was racism every bit it was the knee of the police officer on his neck.  It was racism that shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta. It was racism that called the cops on Christian Cooper in New York’s Central Park.  It was racism that led to the death of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.  These are but a few of the countless number of men, women and children who have lost their lives due to racism.

It is racism that leads black and brown people to be dying of Covid-19 at staggering levels.  It is racism that leads to black and brown people confronting HIV at equally staggering levels.

Racism is the evil that creates so many of our injustices – economic, health care, social and beyond.  As we seek justice for George and hold the police accountable, racism needs to be declared the enemy. And it needs to be defeated.

It will not be easy or quick. I want to share with you some of our response to Floyd’s murder and its racism:

  1. I appreciate that having a person or platform to express your feelings might be helpful.  I am engaging external experts and counselors to help you with this.  I will send the firm(s) out to you early next week.
  2. In honor of the work you do and your passion for social justice, we are making a series of donations to the NAACP and others, who are on the front line in defending justice, creating policies and supporting families and communities who experience acts of aggression, police brutality and injustice.
  3. We will continue our own internal work at Vivent Health on the critical issues of diversity, equity and inclusion to improve our workplace as we work to assure that everyone be treated with respect regardless of the color of their skin, who they love, where they live or how much or little money they have.

As a white man I will never truly understand the depth of racism and fear our African American colleagues and others face, but I will damn well be sure that Vivent continues to stand against hatred and bigotry, stand for justice and combat racism.

Photo credit: Samer Ghani