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Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis

House and Senate Democrats introduce resolution in light of nationwide protests, Ohio statehouse demonstrations
May 29, 2020
Democratic Newsroom

COLUMBUS—The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) today announced plans to introduce legislation that would declare racism a public health crisis, echoing similar calls in Cleveland and Franklin County recently. The resolution, if passed, would be the first of its kind passed at the state level.

“Our citizens of color have been subjected to the effects of racism since the founding of the State of Ohio in 1803. Since that time, Ohioans of color have endured unequal education, unsafe work conditions, inadequate health care services, subpar housing and an unjust criminal justice system, based on policies that were rooted in a belief that people of color are not worthy of the American Dream. By declaring racism a public health crisis, we acknowledge that racism impacts all members of our society and deserves action from all levels of government,” the co-sponsor request sent to the entire Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate states.

The resolution comes on the heels of Thursday night’s protests in Columbus and in advance of more protests planned around the state this weekend following the death of George Floyd. Protests over his death have erupted throughout the country.

“Black America woke this morning to a nightmare that seems to never end and a continued feeling of hopelessness that nothing will ever be better,” OLBC president Rep. Stephanie Howse (D- Cleveland) said. “What we are witnessing around the country is a community simply begging to be seen and heard. Racism is real and it is the biggest public health threat citizens of color face.

By being the first state to adopt this resolution, we hope Ohio can be a model for the nation, showing the rest of the country how we can lead these difficult discussions and enact real and meaningful change. Black Ohioans deserve to be heard today, tomorrow and always. I know where OLBC stands when it comes to addressing the hurt people across this country and in the State of Ohio feel. The real question is where does Governor DeWine, Lieutenant Governor Husted, President Obhof, Speaker Householder, Members of the Ohio General Assembly and other white people in positions of power stand? When will they be forced to atone for the sins of this country and the State of Ohio against black and brown people?

I hope to see all my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, join us as co-sponsors for this resolution. At a time when COVID-19 is disproportionately hospitalizing and killing the black community because of racism, the time to act is now.”

The resolution calls for the following actions:

  • Establishing a glossary of terms and definitions concerning racism and health equity
  • Assert that racism is a public health crisis affecting our entire community
  • Incorporating educational efforts to address and dismantle racism, and expand understanding of racism and how racism affects individual and population health
  • Promoting community engagement, actively engaging citizens on issues of racism, and providing tools to engage actively and authentically with communities of color
  • Committing to review all portions of codified ordinances with a racial equity lens
  • Committing to conduct all human resources, vendor selection and grant management activities with a racial equity lens including reviewing all internal policies and practices such as hiring, promotions, leadership appointments and funding
  • Promoting racially equitable economic and workforce development practices
  • Promoting and encouraging all policies that prioritize the health of people of color, and support local, state, regional, and federal initiatives that advance efforts to dismantle systematic racism and mitigating exposure to adverse childhood experience and traumaTraining of all elected officials, staff, funders and grantees on workplace biases and how to mitigate them
  • Partnering and building alliances with local organizations that have a legacy and track record of confronting racism
  • Encouraging community partners and stakeholders in the education, employment, housing, and criminal justice and safety arenas to recognize racism as a public health crisis and to activate the above items
  • Securing adequate resources to successfully accomplish the above activities.

The deadline for the co-sponsor request is Monday. The resolution is expected to be formally introduced Tuesday.