'We Need To Be Made Whole': Public Speaks On Plan To Declare Racism A Public Health Crisis

Jul 2, 2020

The Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote in two weeks on a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. About 10 people spoke about the issue Thursday during a virtual public hearing.

Commissioner Victoria Parks, who introduced the draft resolution this week, said some of the comments would be reflected in the final resolution.

Franklin Ridgeway told the commission he's supportive.

"And urge that permanent and substantive measures be taken in Hamilton County to address its endemic inequities of race, especially in the areas of education, public transportation, city planning, healthcare and public safety," Ridgeway said.

Rina Saperstein with Caracole, an organization that provides AIDS/HIV support, said African Americans see worse health consequences than white Americans. She said her group views racial disparities as a risk factor for disease.

"The factors that one needs to stay healthy - stable housing, transportation, access to medical care, healthy food, confidence in community structures, and the respect for and from the medical system," Saperstein said. "All disparate for Black Americans, all affecting health."

Kevin Minus was concerned with the word "equity" in the resolution. He suggested "empowerment" instead.

"We don't just need to be treated fairly, we need to be made whole and restored first," Minus said. "There's no point of just simply treating someone equally if you're not going to restore them to the place they need to go."

There was one speaker who was opposed to the measure who said, "it was reactionary." He said a public health crisis for racism is not the answer.

The document focuses on partnerships to reduce racial inequities in health. But it also talks about training and benchmarking for county offices, conducting an economic disparity study, and expands the office of economic inclusion.  The sheriff has agreed to active bystander, implicit bias and crisis intervention training for deputies. 

Parks worked with Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce on the measure. That county made a similar declaration in May. Boyce says it followed a year of study and work.

Parks proposed working on a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis earlier in June following protests and demonstrations after the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis in May.