Hennepin Healthcare CEO says she ‘took action’ for blackface photo – InForum

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MINNEAPOLIS — The CEO of Hennepin Healthcare said she has “taken action” against two white employees who appear in a photo with blackface makeup. The image was emailed to county health system leaders last month and published this week in the Star Tribune.

The image shows three people, including allegedly a white paramedic as well as an EMS unit leader, also white, dressed as the Motown band, the Supremes. They wear matching pink sequined dresses and dark makeup. MPR News has not independently confirmed the identities of the people in the photo.

This photograph reportedly features three current or former Hennepin Healthcare employees wearing black face makeup. The image was emailed to county health system leaders last month and published this week in the Star Tribune.

StarTribune / TNS

The image is undated, but Hennepin Healthcare CEO Jennifer DeCubellis said in an interview Thursday that she believed it was taken about 10 years ago at a social gathering that didn’t was not an official Hennepin Healthcare event.

When asked if the people who would appear in the photo were still employed, DeCubellis said she couldn’t reveal much.

“We took action with the team members,” DeCubellis said. “We are unable to discuss the specifics of staff actions, but we are confident that we have taken the steps we need to take.”

On Wednesday, Hennepin County Commissioner Irene Fernando released a statement calling for the employees to be fired. She said “treating race, ethnicity or culture as a costume is demeaning, extremely racist and cannot be tolerated”.

Fernando went on to say that the photos surfaced just after the Star Tribune reported that an HCMC doctor was found teaching law enforcement about a controversial phenomenon known as ‘excited delirium’. “despite being told to end training on this.

Although it has long been part of police training, excited delirium is not recognized by the American Medical Association and similar professional organizations as a legitimate diagnosis. Critics say it has its roots in scientific racism and has long been used to retroactively justify the deaths of black people in police custody.

Nneka Sederstrom, director of health equity at Hennepin Healthcare, said the new policies in place could have helped uncover the blackface incident.

“These photos are likely coming out because people see that we take this seriously and try to make sure that we understand how big the culture is at this institution and how far we’re going to have to go to get where we want to be,” Sederstrom said.

She added that the healthcare system has launched a major racial equity effort in 2020 and is developing an anti-racism policy to help employees find ways to speak up when faced with racist incidents.

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