In June 2020, following the death of George Floyd and the national aftermath of yet another life lost at the hands of law enforcement, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis that still needs immediate legislative attention and policy changes. (full text of the resolution below)
“Racism structures opportunity and assigns value based on how a person looks. The result: conditions that unfairly advantage some and unfairly disadvantage others. Racism hurts the health of our nation by preventing some people the opportunity to attain their highest level of health.”
Racism Is a Public Health Crisis, Say Cities and Counties
(Printed with permission from Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Click here for full article.
Being black is bad for your health. And pervasive racism is the cause.
That’s the conclusion of multiple public health studies over more than three decades. “We do know that health inequities at their very core are due to racism,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “There’s no doubt about that.”
More recently, research has shown that racial health disparities don’t just affect poor African Americans, but they also cross class lines, Benjamin said. “As a black man, my status, my suit and tie don’t protect me.”
The data is stark: Black women are up to four times more likely to die of pregnancy related complications than white women. Black men are more than twice as likely to be killed by police as white men. And the average life expectancy of African Americans is four years lower than the rest of the U.S. population.
The bleak statistics have helped convince more than 20 cities and counties and at least three states, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, to declare racism a public health crisis.
“…just as the murder of George Floyd has prompted a reckoning over racism and police brutality, could COVID-19 also mark a turning point? Could it help us to finally see the painful health inequalities that most Black people in the US have had to endure for far too long?”
America’s Two Deadly Viruses: How COVID-19 and Racism Converge – And What We Need to do About Health Inequality
Two Deadly Pandemics Converge
Right now, we are beset by two seemingly disparate crises: the coronavirus pandemic and the suffering of ongoing racial injustice, which has recently come into greater worldwide visibility.
Is it a mere coincidence that these two realities have emerged with so much intensity and consequence right now? Or is there an important connection between these two emergencies? Could they both be telling us that we are at a choice point and that there are difficult and important decisions for us to make? And is there a link between the SARS-CoV-2 virus and racism that we need to understand if we are going to respond effectively to either crisis?
Nearly 90% of the New Yorkers and Chicagoans who have died of COVID-19 suffered from obesity or other underlying chronic conditions. But obesity and the other underlying conditions that bode poorly with the coronavirus don’t affect everyone equally. They’re far more prevalent among people of color. In the US, people of color, and particularly Black people, are more likely to get COVID-19, more likely to have it worse, more likely to suffer the most, and more likely to die from it.
Currently, in our society, people who are white are more likely to be financially stable. Not that all white people are monetarily well off, of course. Not by a long shot. But statistically, the odds are in their favor.
People who are white and have enough money, enjoy a number of advantages that lead to better health. Typically, they can afford better diets. White people have access to more nutritious food and information about which foods are, in fact, healthier to eat. They have better housing and safer working conditions. There’s more green space and areas for recreation — and more opportunities to exercise regularly where they live. They have more access to health care services. And the health care they receive is better. And, in general, white people are less exposed to pollution and tend to breathe cleaner air. This is an enormous advantage, as new studies keep finding a remarkably strong association between chronic exposure to air pollution and higher COVID-19 death rates.
And white people do not have to endure the array of health depleting stresses that racism places on almost all people of color, regardless of income or social status.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The “Racism is a Public Health Crisis” project is focused on raising public awareness of the issue and why racial justice should be a priority for all Minnesotans. Our hope is for people to use this page as a resource for learning and getting involved in moving Minnesota forward. As you read through the information presented here, think about what you can do to fight racism.
A few suggestions include:
START by reading this (click to open the whole document):
2. CALL your legislator to support the House Resolution in the 2021 Legislative Session.
“This is about advancing and promoting equitable opportunity across all of our systems, in the areas of health, education, housing, public safety, and economic and workforce development. The COVID-19 pandemic and senseless murder of George Floyd have shined a light on the historical and contemporary injustices that are still embedded in our society.”
– Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL, Mendota Heights) chief author of the resolution
3. LEARN about the Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020
Source: MN Legislative POCI Caucus
Everyone deserves to be safe, no exceptions.
With the world’s eyes upon us, Minnesotans are ready to reimagine and reform how public safety works. To start, there needs to be consequences for police officers who break their oath to serve and protect. No one is above the law.
Minnesotans are asking for systemic change and police accountability – legislation passed by the Republican Senate provides neither. The House DFL’s Minnesota Police Accountability Act is informed by the voices and life experiences of the People of Color and Indiginous Caucus. By working with members of communities most impacted by generational trauma, we’re ready to take the first steps in making systemic change that will lead to accountability.
Here is the House DFL plan for putting Minnesotan’s values into action:
Reclaiming Community Oversight
Putting power into the hands of the people and neighborhoods that police officers are sworn to serve and protect.
- Retroactive Repeal of Statutes of Limitations
- Warrior Training Prohibited
- Choke Hold Ban
- Duty to Intercede
- Police Residency Reform
- Data Collection and Regulatory Reform
- Arbitration Reform
- Law Enforcement Oversight Council Reform
Restoring confidence and trust in the systems that are meant to provide justice for all Minnesotans.
- Use of Force Reform
- Prosecutorial Reform
- Investigatory Reform
- Cash Bail
Reimagining Public Safety
Ending the unacceptable culture that is responsible for the murder of George Floyd and for too many others who look like him.
- Public Safety Peer Counseling Debriefing
- Police Officer Critical Incident Review
- Community Led Public Safety
- Mental Health Training
- Autism Training
- Restore the Vote
4. LEARN more about these issues. Please see the following links and websites:
- States are calling racism a public health crisis. Here’s what that means By Harmeet Kaur and Skylar Mitchell, CNN
- Racism and Health, American Public Health Association
- Minnesota House Declares Racism a Statewide Public Health Crisis, Insight News
- Minnesota Legislature’s People of Color and Indigenous Caucus Discusses Legislative Response to the Murder of George Floyd, Insight News
- Racism has cost America $16 trillion this century alone By Matt Egan, CNN Business