Minneapolis Council Declares Racism A Public Health Emergency

MINNEAPOLIS, MN —The Minneapolis City Council Friday approved a resolution declaring racism a public health emergency and vowed to dedicate more resources to racial equity work.

The resolution notes that “racism in all its forms causes persistent discrimination and disparate outcomes in many areas of life, including housing, education, health, employment, public safety and criminal justice; exacerbated further by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis,” and “a multitude of studies connect racism to inequitable health outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), including cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high infant and maternal mortality rates demonstrating that racism is the root cause of social determinants of health.”

The resolution also highlights studies indicating that Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police as white people in this country and the killings of unarmed Black men are associated with an increase in depression and emotional issues for Black people.

It also notes that Minneapolis has some of the “starkest racial inequities in the country” and ranks as one of the worst regions for racial gaps in home ownership, poverty, median income and obtaining a high school diploma.

The resolution commits the council and mayor to recognize the “severe impact of racism on the wellbeing of residents and the city overall” and to allocate funding, staff and resources to “actively engage in racial equity in order to name, reverse, and repair the harm done to BIPOC.” Action steps policymakers have pledge to take include the following:

  • Center the voices, work, and leadership of the communities most directly affected by said racism.

  • Provide support to the Racial Equity Community Advisory Committee to conduct and implement an internal evaluation of the City Charter as well as all City policies and procedures to prioritize racial equity with specification on how policies translate into anti-racist action towards City employees, constituents, and community members.

  • Address our criminal justice system to stop the profiling and harm done to BIPOC. This includes but is not limited to decarceration and reserving arrest only for violent and other major crimes and easing and dismissing cash bail.

  • Build and implement a comprehensive public safety system that decentralizes BIPOC over-policing and criminalization and is rooted in the public health approach to keep BIPOC communities disproportionately impacted by community violence safe.

  • Develop a comprehensive rapid response protocol to immediate needs and long-term work to address systemic inequities. This includes activating the Office of Emergency Management and Incident Command System, the Health Department, the Division of Race & Equity, and other public facing departments to respond to community stress and trauma.

  • Measure the effectiveness of City programming and the return on investment of public dollar allocations in the budget toward advancing racial equity and reporting these results annually.

  • Allocate dollars in the City budget to be directed toward small business development, housing, community-based infrastructure, and other amenities to reverse and repair the harm experienced by BIPOC. This includes making land and housing affordable for BIPOC, prioritizing BIPOC in redevelopment efforts, and ensuring that these communities are not displaced in neighborhood revitalization efforts.

  • Establish a long-term sustainable source of City of Minneapolis funding that will restore and increase the availability of high-quality youth development programming for BIPOC youth and young adults with inclusion of a strategic plan to improve program quality and evaluate the impact and reach.

  • Develop and implement an annual report with racially disaggregated data on the health of Minneapolis BIPOC, including recommendations for actions to eliminate any disparities and improve overall health.

  • Build a workplace culture that promotes racialized repair, cross-cultural relationships, upholds the sacredness of caucus spaces for building community, and shifts the burden of addressing racism off BIPOC.

“Systemic racism is among the greatest long-term threats our city and nation are facing, and the last two months have made that reality painfully clear,” said Mayor Jacob Frey in a news release. “For Minneapolis to be a place where everyone can live and thrive, we must recognize this crisis for what it is and approach policymaking with the urgency it deserves.”

“It’s past time that we begin to address these systemic issues that have been plaguing our society for decades,” said City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins. “Naming this issue allows us to begin to dismantle its structures moving forward.”

“Racism is the underlying disease to all of the racially inequitable results we are living with today, and we have to name that if we are to heal it. This action is the first step in long overdue restorative measures for our BIPOC community,” said City Council Member Phillipe Cunningham. “The passing of this resolution means that we as local elected officials understand that antiracism must be centered in all that we do as we work to ensure that Minneapolis is at the forefront of achieving racial equity.”

This article originally appeared on the Southwest Minneapolis Patch