• An open letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield said the agency suffered from a "toxic culture" of bullying and discrimination aimed at its Black employees
  • The letter outlines steps the CDC can take to combat these systemic problems in a manner that would be beneficial to the U.S. as well
  • Over 1,000 CDC have signed the open letter to its director

In an open letter to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1,000 employees called out the health agency for what they called a “toxic culture of racial aggressions” internally. The letter was addressed to CDC Director Robert Redfield and dated on June 30, but was only shared to the public Monday by NPR.

As of Monday, the letter has 1,007 signatures.

“During the past several weeks, we have received messages from agency leaders claiming solidarity with the ongoing protests and calls for racial justice,” the letter said. “Though we are encouraged by these messages, their sentiments ring hollow in the face of our daily, lived experiences as employees of this agency.”

The letter says in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks, the CDC is in a unique position to fight systemic racism by treating it like the "disease" it is. However, it alleges the agency suffers from a “lack of inclusion” among senior leadership, an “old boy/girl network” that stifles upward mobility, and a toxic culture of “bullying and marginalization,” which makes fighting to ensure these changes take place far more difficult internally.

“In light of the recent calls for justice across this country and around the world, we, as dedicated public health professionals, can no longer stay silent to the widespread acts of racism and discrimination within CDC that are, in fact, undermining the agency's core mission,” the letter says.

“Systemic racism is not just a concept perpetrated outside these walls. It is a crushing reality for people of color in their daily lived experiences here at CDC.”

To address this, the letter puts forward seven ways the agency can handle its “toxic culture” in a manner that is beneficial for both itself and the U.S.

  1. Declare racism a U.S. public health crisis
  2. Diversify the agency’s leadership and “pipeline for future leaders”
  3. Address the CDC’s toxic culture of bullying and “racial exclusion”
  4. Remove any barriers in place that have prevented the hiring and advancement of Black employees
  5. Create policies that will hold leadership accountable
  6. Better training in regards to “cultural sensitivity” and “implicit bias”
  7. Resolve all standing cases Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cases of alleged discrimination

“We are hurt. We are angry. We are exhausted,” the letter says. “And ultimately, we fear that, despite the global protests, little will be done to address the systemic racism we face each and every day.”

A man holds a picture of George Floyd during a Black Lives Matter protest in New York City
A man holds a picture of George Floyd during a Black Lives Matter protest in New York City GETTY IMAGES / Jeenah Moon