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Cincinnati Council To Consider Declaring Racism A Public Health Crisis

Local and state lawmakers discuss resolutions meant to address systemic racial inequalities.
Bill Rinehart
Local and state lawmakers discuss resolutions meant to address systemic racial inequalities.

Cincinnati Council will weigh in on whether racism is a public health crisis in August.  Three members will introduce a resolution when the council meets again.

Councilwoman Jan-Michelle Lemon Kearney says the measure should address inequalities and lay out guidelines to fix them.

"There are systems and policies in place that create and maintain racial inequality. And that goes into every facet of the lives of black and brown people."

Kearney says that includes health, education, housing, and employment.

She says inequality is like playing the board game Monopoly, only you're not allowed to move for the first 400 turns.

"You don't get to pass go. You don't get to collect $200. And then you get 50 more turns. Now it's your turn to play, but there are certain rules in place: if you make any money, you have to give it to other players. You can't buy a house. You can't buy a hotel. How can you win?" she says.

"How can you win against obesity, and hypertension, and diabetes, if you're living in a food desert? How can you win if black students are three times as likely to get expelled from school as white students for the same incidents? And that makes them eight times more likely to end up incarcerated later," Kearney says.

Another co-sponsor and former police officer, Councilman Wendell Young says America is focusing on police departments' interactions with Black people now. "Certainly only a person infected with racism could willingly place his knee on the back of someone for more than eight minutes and have no feelings about it. And other police officers not feel that they need to intervene. That sickness is real."

Young was referring to the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, the third co-sponsor, says it's not meant to be a resolution without teeth. "We have come together with valued partners like the Center for Closing the Health Gap, the YWCA, Cradle Cincinnati, Reverb, our own city Health Department, and many others to also propose specific policy recommendations, and that will be the real work ahead of us," he says. "It's not just about making a declaration, it's about making change."

Sittenfeld says some of the areas under consideration now include expanded pre-natal care, lead testing and abatement, community gardens, bail reform, and minority entrepreneurship.

A similar resolution is under discussion at the Ohio Statehouse. Hamilton County commissioners approved a resolution last week.Resolution - Racism as a Public Health Crisis by WVXU News on Scribd

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Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio: and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.