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Declare Racism to Be a Public Health Crisis in California

On July 14, 2020, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and partners in a letter to urge that the Governor declare racism to be a statewide public health crisis. Such declaration would serve as an important first step in the state’s acknowledgment of its own racist history through the present day, and would establish specific commitments and measurable actions for beginning to undo the racism that prevents all Californians, especially Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color (BIPOC), from achieving optimal health and well-being.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic fall on Black, Native American, Latinx and Pacific Islanders in California. In these past few weeks, we have joined the nationwide outrage over the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and countless more Black lives lost to police violence, white supremacy and systemic racism. We are outraged at the lack of progress in racial, economic and health equity in the last nearly three decades, but also are hopeful that this is a historic moment for all of us to implement the bold and broad changes that will finally make a difference.

Prior to 2020, the impacts of systemic racism, not race, on public health and health disparities have been well-documented. In the last few weeks, our communities have been exercising their right to public assembly and protest against the same racism that perpetuates inequities in our physical and mental health. Meanwhile, racism is attacking and threatening our already underfunded public health infrastructure, putting all Californians at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our communities need justice, reform, and healing now. 

A growing list of cities and counties (as of Monday, June 22, 2020, 55 jurisdictions across 17 states) have been making declarations on racism as a public health emergency or crisis. The state of California should follow in the footsteps of local governments and public health leaders nationwide, but also strive to be bold, unequivocal, and strong through a declaration that racism is a public health crisis and committing to specific and measurable anti-racism actions.

View the letter here!

View the rolling list of individual and organizational endorsements