The diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) officer for Maine Health is facing criticism after video surfaced of his incendiary remarks about “whiteness.”
Ryan Polly, who was hired in 2020 as the DEI officer for one of the largest hospital systems in Maine, led a prayer group “claiming white people are conditioned to be racist and oppressive, acquiring ‘ignorance’ and ‘racist thoughts’ by belonging to a ‘life of whiteness,’” according to the Daily Mail.
Polly, who is white, leads a group called “One Spirit,” and reportedly refers to himself as the “pastor” of the group, said the Daily Mail.
“As the head of diversity, equity and inclusion at a major health system, I think frequently about my role as White person first and as a diversity leader second. I think about the responsibility I have to continue the deep internal work of… understanding my own racist narrative and biases,” Polly said in the video, according to Fox News. “I think about the privilege my Whiteness affords me and the choices Whiteness allows me to have… My Whiteness keeps me and my family safe.”
The video has subsequently been scrubbed from the Internet following widespread reporting, said Fox.
Some officials with Maine Health are not amused by Polly’s comments.
“It certainly explains a lot about why Polly has relentlessly pushed a DEI agenda at Maine Health for the past two and a half years,” a source at Maine Health told Fox News. The executive called for the hospital system to fire Polly over the comments, “and get back to the business of taking care of patients.”
Left unchecked, the source thinks “this dangerous messaging will lead to even more division and distrust.”
Reading Polly’s prayer, it’s not hard to see why the source thinks the message is dangerous.
“This evening has been designed with White people in mind not to take the stage. We have plenty of places to take the stage,” said Polly, starting off the prayer by taking the stage, according to the Daily Mail. “We [need] to… begin the work to join the fight… We need to ensure we… do the work to challenge our ignorance, our biases and the racist thoughts that we’ve acquired through the life of Whiteness.”
Polly later claimed all white people “share something” with officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown, and George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon Martin, said the Daily Mail.
Fox News reached out to Maine Health for a statement about Polly’s controversial comments. His employer appeared to stand by him.
“Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion stems from our organizational values, mission and vision,” read its statement. “This work strengthens our connections with patients and ultimately helps us to deliver higher-quality care. Consistent with our value of Respect and our role as an institution of learning, we welcome and encourage divergent viewpoints and dialogue among our patients and care team.”
It’s perhaps ironic that Maine happens to have one of the highest percentages of white people of any state, according to the 2020 census.
Nearly 93% of people living in Maine are white, which may explain why the hospital system hired a white man to be its DEI officer. By contrast, only 1.3% of Maine residents claim to be black. The most common place of origin for foreign-born Maine residents is Canada.