Make racism a public health crisis in Whatcom County
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The Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) outline public health as the conditions, both physical and social, in the places that affect where people live, learn, work, and play. On May 25, 2020 the world watched racism manifest itself right on the neck of George Floyd as his life was taken from him in the most inhumane way. Black men are more than twice as likely to be killed by police as White men. Concerns of the Bellingham Police Department’s mishandling in cases of persons with mental illness, those impoverished, and those enduring domestic violence were presented to Police Chief Doll. But these listening sessions have yet to result in action. Washington States incarceration rate (black to white) is 5.7:1. In the 2016 Whatcom County Vera Report it was reported that, Native Americans and African Americans made up 14 and 7 percent of the average daily jail population in 2016, respectively, even though Native Americans make up only four percent and African Americans make up only two percent of the county population, according to 2015 U.S. Census.
With the recent global pandemic, COVID-19 has become a crisis both in the health and the inequities of Black, Indigenous and People of Color face economically, socially, educationally and in housing. Current COVID-19 data is showing that nationally Black Americans are two times more likely to die of the virus than the general population. Labor Department figures indicate that in the month of April fewer than half of all African American were employed, which is the lowest rate in 4 decades, leaving many without health insurance. Black people are more likely than White people to experience high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. And they're more likely to die at early ages and when contracting COVID-19 due to these conditions. With that said racism is a public health crisis and needs to be acknowledged as such.
Whatcom County has a history of intentionally eradicating Indigenous Peoples from this land they nurtured. Throughout Whatcom County’s history there have been numerous attempts to exclude immigrant, Black, and people of color communities from equitable participation in our society.
This petition is a call to action for our County and City Council, County Executive Satpal Sidhu and Bellingham Mayor, Seth Fleetwood to listen to our demands for change for our disenfranchised members of Whatcom County.
By signing this petition you are:
Acknowledging the disparities our black, indigenous and people of color face due to systemic racism. Which in turn creates a health crisis based on the criteria of the Social Determinants of Health.
Asking City Council members and County Executive Satpal Sidhu to draft an executive order creating healthy, physically safe and healthy environments that promote good social health for ALL in Whatcom County. This petition is demanding 3 actionable steps of including:
1. Having Mayoral and Executive Declaration that racism is a public health crisis in Whatcom County. By making this declaration it will acknowledge the history of racism, which includes signing of land treaties forcing indigenous people off of this land they cared for from the beginning of Whatcom County history; and excluding Black, Immigrant and People of Color from equitable participation in our society.
2. Make environmental justice and the elimination of racial disparities top priorities for the 2021-2022 budget cycle, dedicating the staff and resources needed.
3. Allocate financial resources to develop positions in the Mayor's Office that give preference to applicants that have experienced racism and/or marginalized, to guide future work to engage the community, staff and Health Department to develop an action plan to eliminate racial disparities in Whatcom County, and to direct the implementation of that plan.
Other cities/states that have already declared racism a public health crisis:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (County level)
Wisconsin (state level): Gov. Tony Evers called racism a public health crisis at a news conference on June 4.
Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on August 5.
Nevada: Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a proclamation on August 5.
Colorado: The state plans to make a public declaration, the Denver Post reported in late July.
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