On anniversary of Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, racism remains a public health crisis

Date: Aug 28 2020

Contact: Media Relations 

Statement from APHA Executive Director George C. Benjamin, MD

Nearly 60 years after Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, systemic racism is still endangering and killing Black Americans.

Last weekend, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man, seven times in the back in front of his children. A couple days later — the same night a white counter-protestor gunned down two people protesting Blake’s shooting — video surfaced of Kenosha police thanking heavily armed, self-described militia members. It’s a disturbing contrast that lays clear the need for honest discussions about racism and police reform.

On the 57th anniversary of Dr. King’s speech — though we have made significant progress in the decades since — racism remains a public health crisis. Black and Hispanic Americans still experience disproportionate rates of police violence. Inequities in housing, health care access, educational and economic opportunities continue to impact communities of color, resulting in poorer health, preventable disease and shorter lives. Right now, COVID-19 is killing Black and Hispanic Americans at much higher rates than their white peers. The longstanding, undeniable link between racism and poor health demands our attention.

On the anniversary of “I Have a Dream,” the U.S. still has a long way to go to fulfill Dr. King’s vision. But we also have a lot of momentum, as millions continue their peaceful march for racial justice and equity. As Dr. King said: “We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.”


The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.