A MaineHealth executive hosted an antiracist prayer service in which he had a group of White people apologize for their internalized racism, according to a since-deleted video reviewed by Fox News Digital.
The executive, Ryan Polly, has served as Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at MaineHealth since February 2021, having previously served as the Maine Medical Center’s Director of DEI, and Interim VP of DEI at MaineHealth since September 2020.
Polly, who holds a Ph.D. in “Transformative Studies,” also refers to himself as a “minister” of a group called the One Spirit Learning Alliance.
In a video that has since been scrubbed, Polly is shown teaching attendees of a prayer service dedicated to “loving spirits who are known by many names” how to be practitioners of antiracism.
“Only then can we become equipped to… challenge the systems that have been designed to give us the advantage and oppress everyone else,” he said about becoming an antiracist.
The MaineHealth DEI leader says that he himself maintains “racist narratives and biases,” which he attributes to his own skin color.
“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. “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.”
Polly said that White people acquire “ignorance,” “biases” and “racist thoughts” based on their belonging to a “life of Whiteness.”
“This evening has been designed with White people in mind not to take the stage. We have plenty of places to take the stage,” he said at the start of his prayer. “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.”
In a section of the prayer centered around “dismantling the system,” Polly encouraged the White people attending the service to feel uncomfortable with his messages.
“Let us develop the courage to dive [into] deeply experienced discomfort. Let’s sit with it… knowing that the answers come not from our own conscious thinking because that thinking is shaped by racist constructs. The answers lie deeper,” he said. “Let us leave with the tenacity to become anti-racist and continue the fight, even on the days when we could simply choose not to. Amen.”
Following his prayer, Polly said that all White people bear responsibility for instances in which police officers have shot Black people.
“I am White… You share something with Darren Wilson [who shot Michael Brown] and George Zimmerman [who shot Trayvon Martin]. We share the experience of living in a culture that tells us that our lives have more value just because we’re White,” Polly said.
“I choose to consider these collective wounds as implicating all of us. And that their healing requires my participation because I am White,” he added.
After Fox News sent Polly a request for comment, he deleted his YouTube channel.
Polly’s prayer service was also made private after Fox sent a query to MaineHealth, who defended their DEI executive in a statement.
“Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion stems from our organizational values, mission and vision. 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,” MaineHealth stated.
MaineHealth has instituted a five-year DEI strategic plan, a project spearheaded by Ryan Polly going back to August 2020, when he sent an email to MaineHealth’s care team members saying that the organization needed to take “a closer look at our own shortcomings” regarding DEI efforts, according to a report from Do No Harm, a group that advocates against radical, divisive, and discriminatory ideology in healthcare.
The DEI initiative includes educational programming for MaineHealth leadership and all care team members — in 2022, the initiative resulted in 311 care team members participating in DEI education, 112 DEI ambassadors across the MaineHealth system, and 600 hours spent developing the DEI strategic plan.
One educational resource Polly provided MaineHealth employees in another email is the MaineHealth “Inclusive Language Guide,” which encourages employees to avoid terms like “mom and dad” and “father and mother” in favor of “parents, adults, family,” in order to prevent the assumption of a “heteronormative family structure.”
It also provides a list of “commonly used pronouns” for gender identity, such as “Xe/Xem/Xyrs/Xyrself.”
Polly works at the same institution as Gov. Janet Mills sister, Dora Mills, who is the “chief improvement officer” for MaineHealth.
Dora Mills recently collaborated with the Portland Press Herald in order to encourage Mainers to get more mRNA injections to help fight the newest COVID-19 variant.