3/26/21 - An Important Message from Secretary Hou

Friday, March 26, 2021

Dear colleagues,

The IDHS leadership has a strong commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice (DEIRJ). We have demonstrated this in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with you, we have achieved and innovated to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of those we serve. Most recently, to help reach people with high barriers to health care access, IDHS initiated vaccination clinics in partnership with community providers and community members.

While we have hope that vaccinations will lead us through a path of this pandemic, we share the sorrow and bear witness to the grief of those impacted by the tragedies in Atlanta and Boulder. These two tragedies are part of at least 7 mass shootings in the last 10-14 days which has made the past few weeks especially trying some of our country's most complex systemic challenges, exposing racism, gun violence, and mental health challenges. Please see my discussion with our outstanding partners at Healing Illinois. These are challenges IDHS staff are working to address in many ways. One way is through our IDHS Equity, Racial Justice, Inclusion and Diversity OneNet page which is facilitating and leading IDHS' agency-wide DEIRJ efforts; it is important for each of us to incorporate these values into our work.

I believe that we can all find meaningful ways to understand and learn about those who are different from ourselves. As a Chinese American, an Asian American, I know what it feels like to be judged by how I look rather than by what I do. I know that there are narratives and stereotypes around who I am, and expectations of me that precede any of my actions or words, and I know that many of you often face similar - if not greater - challenges. The tragic murders in Atlanta served as painful reminders that misperceptions, differences, ignorance, and hate are devastating families and communities.

While we may not know the family and friends of those who lost their lives, I hope that we can take a moment to think of them and to reflect on the difficult times that these communities and others across the country as well as our own neighbors face. We can overcome this together, but positive change is only achieved through intentional action.

As part of this intentional action, I hope that we can continue to challenge our own prejudices and implicit biases, as we work together to increase racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion at IDHS and through IDHS both for ourselves and for those we serve. Please take good care.



Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS