Story at a glance
- The mayor and city council of Louisville are working to declare racism a public health crisis in the city.
- This would give officials access to financial resources to tackle the problem.
The Louisville, Ky., city government is taking steps to declare racism a public health crisis, officials said Wednesday. The move comes after the police killing of Breonna Taylor in her home in March and as COVID-19 cases disproportionately affect people of color across the city and the country.
WLKY reports that Mayor Greg Fischer (D) along with three Metro Council members — Keisha Dorsey, Jessica Green and Barbara Shanklin — are working to declare racism a public health crisis following a council hearing on the adverse health effects of systemic racism.
“Identifying and working to eliminate structural racism has been a priority for me and my team for over a decade, but there's much more to be done," Fischer said in a release, CNN reports. "Now, as we see people in our streets and in streets across the nation demanding fundamental change, we must have a new sense of urgency to make this declaration and do the hard work of dismantling racism and creating real transformation.”
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In a meeting with the three council members and the mayor, Louisville’s Chief Equity Officer Kendall Boyd presented statistics that underscore the public health effects of racism.
Boyd cited how Black Louisville residents account for 27 percent of all COVID-19 deaths despite making up 23 percent of the city’s population. Additionally, in the western part of the city, which is a predominantly Black community, life expectancy is approximately 67 years, while in East Louisville, it is 82 years.
Boyd also spoke about how "minority populations are disproportionately exposed to conditions such as concentrated poverty, racism, limited educational and occupational opportunities, and other aspects of social and economic disadvantages that contribute to poor health outcomes, including heightened exposure to violence," according to CNN.
Dorsey told reporters that she is reviewing resolutions passed in other cities as a prototype for that of Louisville’s. WLKY writes that other Midwestern metropolitan areas who have made similar public health announcements are Indianapolis, Ind., and Columbus, Ohio.
"What I'm really interested in is not just declaring a public health crisis, or an issue, but what I'm really interested in is the resources that come along with that declaration," Dorsey said.
Boyd says the administration’s next step would be to draft a resolution for the council to consider. Dorsey aims to have a resolution ready in two weeks.
The Louisville Metro government’s response to systemic racism as a multifaceted social crisis follows months of Black Lives Matter protests across the nation. Activists and protesters are decrying the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Taylor, as well as countless other Black Americans, at the hands of police forces. Taylor, who was 26 years old, was fatally shot when three plainclothes Louisville Metro police officers executed a no-knock search warrant in her home. Demonstrators are also demanding police reform and institutional change to end racism in the country.
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