Statement of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project (PHLP) on Racial Injustice

Video images of the brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, and the unconscionably long list of unarmed Black people who preceded him, have evoked feelings of fear, sadness, and outrage amongst PHLP’s staff and board.  It is appalling that these killings are not distant American history but persist with remarkable frequency and ferocity well into the twenty-first century.  We stand in solidarity with those speaking out against anti-black racial violence and demanding racial justice in America.    

As an organization that advocates for and represents people who need health care, we are all too familiar with racial inequalities.  Black men have the nation’s lowest life expectancy—four years less than white men, seven years less than black women, nine years less than white women.  George Floyd was only 46-years-old.  Moreover, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is infecting and killing Black people in the United States at disproportionately high rates, according to data released by several states and big cities.  These extreme inequalities for whites and people of color compromise human dignity and equality.  We agree with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that racial “health disparities, and often the diseases themselves, stem in part from the stress of being silenced, ignored, oppressed, and targeted for violence—too often by those institutions and individuals entrusted to protect all people.” 

We want to make the world different and better.  We seek a health care system that values access for everyone and addresses social determinants of health.  PHLP commits to taking the following actions to center our work more directly and concretely on racial justice priorities:

  • We will be more deliberate in our commitment to listen to and learn from the experience and perspectives of Black communities by increasing our outreach and engagement with communities of color, strengthening our existing partnership with anti-racist organizations, supporting the growth and development of our client groups, and building new partnerships with organizations that are leading the way in anti-racist advocacy.
  • We will demand transparency from health care providers (e.g., nursing homes, hospitals), and health insurance programs so the public can see how resources are being spent, identify and fight against policies that are racist, and hold racist individuals, institutions, and entities accountable for both their actions and their inactions.
  • We will devote resources to conducting a careful assessment of our own internal programs, policies, and practices and will develop a racial justice action plan to align our programs and policies more intentionally with our commitment to operate an anti-racist legal services program.
  • We will hold ourselves accountable for making measurable progress on our commitments by publicly releasing our racial justice action plan and regularly reporting on our implementation of that plan.

We want an America with freedom, dignity, inclusivity, opportunity, and health and well-being for everyone.  We must come to grips with racism.  We must be actively anti-racist, anti-classist, and anti-oppressive.  The task will be difficult, but PHLP is committed to addressing it with honesty, courage, and partnership.

For more information or comment, please contact:

Laval Miller-Wilson, Executive Director, PHLP –