Senate, House Democrats: ‘Racism is a public health crisis’

LANSING — Today, Sens. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit), and Rep. Cynthia A. Johnson (D-Detroit), introduced Senate and House resolutions declaring racism a public health crisis in the State of Michigan and called upon state leaders to work toward solutions to dismantle systemic racism.

“Systemic, institutionalized racism continues to be a pervasive sickness that affects every aspect of the lives of people of color,” Sen. Geiss said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has recently pulled back the curtain and revealed for all the disparities of health care access in marginalized communities, yet the reality is that these inequities have existed for generations. The social determinants of health that lead to poor health outcomes for marginalized communities are rooted in the crumbling foundations of structural racism. The primary vaccine for this public health crisis must lay in recognizing the crisis and intentionally working to destroy it.”

Nationwide, an analysis of survey data from Johns Hopkins University found that coronavirus infection rates were three times higher in counties with predominantly black populations than in predominantly white ones, and COVID-19 death rates were six times higher in these same areas as well. 

“I know my brothers and sisters in every part of the country are justifiably hurt and angry right now,” Rep. Johnson said. “George Floyd’s death at the hands of someone who swore an oath to protect him has motivated so many people to peacefully take to the streets to fight the good fight for a better future, but the injustices we face today go even deeper than that. The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare deeply rooted inequities in health care and socioeconomic opportunity that have existed for centuries before this pandemic. We must speak truth to power and recognize racism for what it is — a public health crisis.”

In Michigan alone, Black people represent less than 14% of the population, yet have accounted for 40% of the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the state.

“There is no room for silence when we know that racism is lurking in every corner and crevice of our society — health care included,” Sen. Bullock said. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history, grappling with a virus that doesn’t discriminate but yet we have a health care system that does. We cannot say that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed in this country if Black Lives don’t have equal access to health care. This topic is a community conversation that is long overdue, and one that I look forward to having.”

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