Statement from RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser, MD, on the Derek Chauvin Verdict

    • April 20, 2021

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) stands in solidarity with those fighting for racial justice and speaking out against anti-Black racial violence and White supremacy. The verdict delivered today in the Derek Chauvin trial rightly named the crime against George Floyd: murder. And it rightly named his murderer: police officer Derek Chauvin. However, while the verdict is just, the systems we have in place in our country that led to George Floyd’s murder by police, in the middle of a Minneapolis street in broad daylight last year, are not.

We must come to terms with the racist history of our nation and recognize how it continues to poison every facet of our society. And we must pledge to dismantle the racism within systems that discriminate against Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) and perpetuate White supremacy, in service to the nation and to one another.

Research shows that structural racism has had a negative impact on the health and life expectancy of BIPOC populations in America for generations. It denies them of an equal opportunity to thrive, and robs them of physical and mental health. In a positive step forward, the Centers for Disease Control, and more than 170 local and state leaders, as well as public health entities, have officially declared racism a public health epidemic. Dismantling structural racism must become America’s ultimate public health intervention.  

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will continue to work with others to ensure every person in America has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being by removing obstacles to health including systemic racism, marginalization, and powerlessness. It is our privilege, and our responsibility.   

To learn more, visit the Foundation’s Racism and Health collection page.


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

Media Contacts

Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937