As Chattanooga’s only faith-based hospital system, CHI Memorial stands against racism in all of its manifestations. Together with our foundresses, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, and CommonSpirit Health, we stand against violence and we believe that only non-violent protest will bring about the justice and peace we all desire for our community and our nation.

Looking back at our history, we acknowledge our own role in addressing the racial divisions of Chattanooga. When CHI Memorial first opened its doors in 1952, we were a segregated facility with separate patient rooms, restrooms, water fountains and cafeteria hours. But that racism conflicted with our mission of serving everyone with the love of Christ. Early on, Sr. Marie Victoria, SCN, our first administrator, decided that such practices were wrong. Under her prophetic leadership, CHI Memorial became the first hospital in Chattanooga to desegregate in the mid 1950’s. 

Today we stand with our brothers and sisters in our community to share our deep concern for the injustices of our time. We are committed to living out our mission of improving the health of the people we serve, especially those who are vulnerable, while we advance social justice for all.

Judy Raley, SCN, shares the following message from CommonSpirit Health CEOs, Lloyd H. Dean and Kevin E. Lofton: 

We want to share our thoughts with all of you regarding the events that took place in Minneapolis last week and the turmoil that’s followed. Like you, we’ve been deeply saddened and troubled by what we’ve heard and seen.

As the leaders of an organization whose reason for existence is health, we are part of a healing ministry of 150,000 people dedicated to human life, liberty and justice. We are united in a belief in the inherent dignity of all people. This transcends race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or economic status.

As healers, we cannot watch the killing of George Floyd and the violence that has erupted during otherwise peaceful protests in response without deep sadness. However, having seen the impacts of systemic racism in healthcare for decades, these recent events sharpen our resolve to demand justice, truth and dignity for all.

CommonSpirit has already been calling attention to and working to address the dramatically disparate impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had. A hugely disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases in the United States are among African Americans and other minorities. Many of these people work or worked in healthcare, transportation, emergency or other essential services, yet our society fails to treat them with the dignity that every American not only deserves but is entitled to under the U.S. Constitution.

Racial disparities in health status are not new to us. Solving for these problems is at the heart of what we do at CommonSpirit. We provide health care to all who are in need. That’s our starting point.

But racial inequity is far more than a health issue, as recent events demonstrate all too well. Health problems begin with and are exacerbated by so many other factors, from housing to hunger, education to employment. Access to health care is a critical factor that we and other health care systems work so hard on, but we need an entire nation committed to addressing all of the reasons why health equity is so elusive — just as we must commit to equal justice for all.

CommonSpirit will remain resolute and focused, and we are here to work with any and all organizations who share our beliefs and will join us on the journey towards a better America for all people.

We must believe that after this time of darkness, there will be a dawn. We both pray that the convergence of this virus that seeks out the most vulnerable, and the deplorable deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others that have led to the heartfelt protests we are seeing across the country will finally be a wake-up call. Eyes can no longer be closed. Heads cannot be turned. Attention not diverted. Blame not shifted.

Silence is no longer acceptable. As our voices are lifted in protest, our hearts remain steadfastly committed to non-violence. We must turn away from any who seek to create more harm and honor the memories of all of those we have lost by acting in peace. Together, we can walk to a healthier future.