MICHIGAN - Now that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued an executive directive to declare racism a public health crisis in Michigan, Sen. Erika Geiss and her supporters are calling for her concurrent resolution, SCR 0027 to be brought out of committee and up for a vote so that the measure might earn the full force of law. Senators Marshall Bullock and Geiss introduced the measure in June and received the support of 15 co-sponsors, but it was quickly referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee where it has languished ever since. The concurrent resolution is aimed at addressing the underlying causes of lowered life expectancy and quality of life for Michigan’s 1.4 million African American residents that is highlighted by the disproportionate number of deaths of Black people during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I applaud the Governor for showing the leadership needed to confront systemic racism in Michigan,” said Sen. Geiss. “But there are limitations to the power of Executive Orders. It’s time for the legislature to step up and acknowledge that it’s time we take this problem seriously.”
"Structural racism kills. It is the number one cause of mortality, morbidity, and poor quality of life for African Americans,” said Dr. Ijeoma Nnodim Opara, an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, Wayne State University. “It is the cause of the health disparities that are so conveniently attributed to individual traits and "choices", while the effects of systemic oppression that dictate behavior and constrain choice are consistently and systematically ignored .
"That COVID19 is claiming the lives of a disproportionate number of people of color is not surprising to those doing public health work,” Dr. William Lopez, an Assistant Professor of Health Behavior & Education at the University of Michigan. “The pandemic has laid bare the racial fault lines throughout our country, showing everyone that our systems of segregation, incarceration, deportation, and low-wage employment shape the lives and health of communities of color, exposing them to risks their white peers do not experience."
A few weeks ago, the Wayne County Commission became the latest to approve a resolution declaring racism to be a public health crisis, joining the counties of Oakland, Kalamazoo, Genesee and Washtenaw. Chairwoman Alisha Bell said everything from poverty to health disparities pointed back towards racism. “I want to think that the large counties in Michigan stepping up was the reason why the Governor decided to also declare it a health crisis,” Bell said. She says she’s now looking for tangible outcomes to result from the environment to housing.
Sen Geiss and an expanded line up of advocates will discuss the topic in even greater detail in an online town hall meeting Wednesday, sponsored by Michigan United and the Schoolcraft College Diversity Committee.