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Ohio Legislative Black Caucus pushes to declare racism a public health crisis

June 2, 2020
Democratic Newsroom

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

“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. 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 follows protests across the state and around the country late last week and over the weekend following the death of George Floyd. Protests over his death have erupted throughout the country.

“To have real and meaningful change in our society, we need everyone to stand up and denounce racism, have the uncomfortable conversations to better understand one another and end it, once and for all. This state and this nation are witnessing a reckoning right now, and the current white, Republican leaders controlling all the power in Ohio need to listen, act and be on the right side of history. Black Ohioans deserve to be heard today, tomorrow and always,” said House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron).

“I am deeply troubled by the state of our nation. That is why now more than ever it is vitally important to declare racism as a public health crisis. It is unacceptable that 170 years after Black Laws were abolished in Ohio, race is still a social determinant of health. Ohio’s minorities need equality in both service and care,” said Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus).

“It is a shame that we live in a state that has some of the best health care institutions in the world and yet black Ohioans are still seeing health disparities. It’s time to declare racism a public health crisis and make sure all our residents receive the same quality health care and access to the same opportunities.,” said Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland).

“Racism has plagued this country since its founding and it must be dismantled. We see how racism has adverse consequences on the public health and well-being of Black people and people of color. Discriminatory policies and practices play out every day in healthcare, education, housing, employment, and criminal justice systems. This pandemic has only highlighted the inequities as it relates to the number of cases, testing, treatment, and deaths. Racism is the most dangerous pre-existing condition. As a Black woman and a legislator, not only am I obligated to call out racism in every form, but also to implement policies that will counteract the harm that racism has caused. This resolution declaring racism as a public health issue is a start. Every person, no matter their skin color, should have the opportunity to live the American Dream right here in Ohio, I want that for myself, my children, and every other Ohioan,” said Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus).

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.

Ohio Legislative Black Caucus pushes to declare racism a public health crisis (PDF)