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Ohio lawmakers introduce legislation to declare racism a public health crisis

Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 had its first hearing Tuesday. More hearings are planned next week.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two-hundred people are scheduled to provide testimony over the next week in support of a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis in Ohio.

The bill, co-sponsored by Democrats Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) and Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) is calling for the following:

  • Establishing a glossary of terms and definitions concerning racism and health equity
  • Assert that racism is a public health crisis affecting our entire community
  • Incorporating educational efforts to address and dismantle racism, and expand understanding of racism and how racism affects individual and population health
  • Promoting community engagement, actively engaging citizens on issues of racism, and providing tools to engage actively and authentically with communities of color
  • Committing to review all portions of codified ordinances with a racial equity lens
  • Committing to conduct all human resources, vendor selection and grant management activities with a racial equity lens including reviewing all internal policies and practices such as hiring, promotions, leadership appointments and funding
  • Promoting racially equitable economic and workforce development practices
  • Promoting and encouraging all policies that prioritize the health of people of color, and support local, state, regional, and federal initiatives that advance efforts to dismantle systematic racism and mitigating exposure to adverse childhood experience and trauma Training of all elected officials, staff, funders and grantees on workplace biases and how to mitigate them
  • Partnering and building alliances with local organizations that have a legacy and track record of confronting racism
  • Encouraging community partners and stakeholders in the education, employment, housing, and criminal justice and safety arenas to recognize racism as a public health crisis and to activate the above items
  • Securing adequate resources to successfully accomplish the above activities.

"We've been facing this for years, our families have been facing this and it's been normalized for a lot of the families and I think right now is a great opportunity for us to stand up and say not anymore,” said State Senator Williams.

According to a Brookings Institution study in February of this year, the net worth of a typical white family is $171,000. The study found that's nearly ten times greater than that of a black family. 

It's just one example of why Senator Sandra Williams is urging Ohio lawmakers to approve a resolution to address racism as a public health crisis.

The resolution wants to address racism at all levels: education, policing, foster care, corrections housing, and health.

“In Ohio, unfortunately, Black or Brown Ohioans have less they have less access to health care, less access to health insurance,” said Steve Wagner Executive Director of Universal Health Care Action Network.

Lawmakers seem to agree that solving systemic racism won't take be a quick fix and that it will take education.

“There are some of my colleagues who do not believe there is systemic racism in Ohio,” says State Senator Williams.

There is no word on when the House will vote on the resolution.

The chairman indicated he would like to take the hearings on the road to hear from people.