FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Racism is a Public Health Crisis

Photograph Source: Bart Everson – CC BY 2.0

Racism is often viewed as an action performed by individuals. But even if we got rid of all America’s prejudiced individuals, racism would still exist in the systems they built.

Systemic racism, writer Jenee Desmond-Harris explains, refers to how racial disparities operate “in major parts of U.S. society: the economy, politics, education, and more.”

Racism, in other words, isn’t just someone using a racial slur. It’s also the poor schooling in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods, the racial wealth gap, housing discrimination, mass incarceration, police killings of unarmed black and brown people, higher infant mortality rates for people of color, and unequal access to health care.

As governments struggle to address (or even acknowledge) these racial inequalities, officials in Milwaukee, Wisconsin decided to take a unique approach by declaring racism a public health crisis.

Milwaukee is one of the most racially unequal cities in the country, coming in at No. 2 last year on a list of “The Worst Cities for Black Americans” by 24/7 Wall Street, a financial news site. The report blamed Milwaukee’s discriminatory housing policies throughout the 20th century for the city’s current inequality.

Citing research by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it noted that “16 of the 18 suburbs of Milwaukee County enacted restrictive housing covenants in the 1940s, many of which remained in effect into the 1960s and 1970s.” This segregation contributed to deep income and wealth inequality today.

Even now, the typical black household in Milwaukee earns less than half the typical white household. And “while the white poverty rate in Milwaukee of 7.6 percent is one of the lowest in the country,” the report notes, “the black poverty rate of 36.4 percent is among the highest.”

When it comes to imprisonment, the story is the same. Black people in Wisconsin are locked up at nearly 11 times the rate of whites, and more than half of Milwaukee’s black people in their 30s have served time behind bars.

In the end, where does all this lead? Across the state of Wisconsin, it means black people live about six years fewer than white people, with even greater disparities at the local level.

By declaring such racism a public health crisis, Milwaukee County officials are committing to put racial equity at the core of all city procedures, to advocate for policies that improve health in communities of color, and to train their employees on how racism impacts residents.

Finally, they hope to encourage other local, state, and national officials to recognize racism as a public health issue. “We have a moral imperative to put our indifference aside in the face of injustice,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, and to “ensure every resident in every neighborhood benefits.”

Abele couldn’t be more right. Like the late great Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Black Americans deserve an end to racial inequality, but eradicating systemic racism would strike at the heart of inequalities that hold down Americans of all colors. The solutions can be complex, but bold ideas like Milwaukee’s are a great start.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
January 17, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: No Woman, No Cry
Kathleen Wallace
Hijacking the Struggles of Others, Elizabeth Warren Style
Robert Hunziker
The Rumbling Methane Enigma
Frank Joyce
Will the Constitution Fail Again?
Pete Dolack
Claims that the ‘NAFTA 2’ Agreement is Better are a Macabre Joke
Andrew Levine
Biden Daze
Vijay Prashad
Not an Inch: Indian Students Stand Against the Far Right
Ramzy Baroud
Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank
Norman Solomon
Not Bernie, Us. Not Warren, Us. Their Clash Underscores the Need for Grassroots Wisdom
Ted Rall
America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia
David Rosen
The Irregulators vs. FCC: the Trial Begins
Jennifer Matsui
The Krown
Joseph Natoli
Resolutions and Obstacles/2020
Sarah Anderson
War Profiteering is Real
James McFadden
The Business Party Syndicate
Ajamu Baraka
Trump Prosecutors Make Move to Ensure that Embassy Protectors are Convicted
David Swanson
CNN is Trash
Rev. William Alberts
Finally a Christian Call for Trump’s Removal
Dave Lindorff
The ERA Just Got Ratified by Virginia, the Needed 38th State!
W. T. Whitney
Mexico Takes Action on Coup in Bolivia and on CELAC
Steve Early
How General Strike Rhetoric Became a Reality in Seattle 
Jessicah Pierre
Learning From King’s Last Campaign
Mark Dickman
Saint Greta and the Dragon
Jared Bernstein - Dean Baker
Reducing the Health Care Tax
Clark T. Scott
Uniting “Progressives” Instead of Democrats
Nilofar Suhrawardy
Trump & Johnson: What a Contrast, Image-wise!
Ron Jacobs
Abusing America’s Children—Free Market Policy
George Wuerthner
Mills Are Being Closed by National Economic Trends, Not Environmental Regulations
Basav Sen
Nearly All Americans Want Off of Fossil Fuels
Mark Ashwill
Playing Geopolitical Whack-a-Mole: The Viet Nam Flag Issue Revisited
Jesse Jackson
New Hope for One of America’s Poorest Communities
Binoy Kampmark
Harry and Meghan Exit: The Royal Family Propaganda Machine
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again!
Rob Okun
A Call to Men to join Women’s March
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
We All Need to Be Tree Huggers Now
Tom Stephens
The New York Times’ Delusions of Empire
Julian Rose
Fake-Green Zero Carbon Fraud
Louis Proyect
The Best Films of 2019
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: Into Kosovo
Colin Todhunter
Gone Fishing? No Fish but Plenty of Pesticides and a Public Health Crisis
Julian Vigo
Can New Tech Replace In-Class Learning?
Wim Laven
Message to Trump Supporters: Sorry
Gaither Stewart
The Bench: the Life of Things
Nicky Reid
Trannies with Guns: Because Enough is Enough!
James Haught
Baby Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail