An Ohio county is taking a stand against racism — by declaring it a public health crisis, according to reports.
Franklin County, which encompasses the city of Columbus, passed a declaration Tuesday ordaining racial discrimination a hazard and vowing to back community efforts to fight back against racism as part of an awareness campaign, ABC-News reported.
“Racism has been a pandemic long before the current coronavirus pandemic,” Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce said in a statement Tuesday. “Our declaration today is important, but it’s not saying anything that hasn’t been apparent for a long time.”
“COVID-19 has highlighted the health divide between black and white Ohioans, however, and I hope that it can be the catalyst we need to reform the whole health system so that it works for all of us equally,” Boyce said.
According to the US Census Bureau, Franklin County’s population of 1.3 million is 67 percent white — yet black residents are hospitalized with the virus at twice the rate of other demographic groups, and are dying from the deadly bug at a higher rate, the report said.
Even before the pandemic, the commissioners said black residents die more prematurely than other racial or ethnic groups.
The county declaration, which was in the works before the coronavirus outbreak and was part of the government’s 2019 Rise Together Blueprint to deal with poverty in Central Ohio, notes that racism and segregation “exacerbated a health divide resulting in black Ohioans having lower life expectancies than white Ohioans.”
The declaration identifies two types of racism, individualized and systemic.
Individualized racism is described as “internal,” while systemic is defined as racism that assigns a person’s value and opportunities based on their appearance.
“Nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of our residents,” said John O’Grady, president of the Franklin Board of Commissioners. “Our community’s success depends on all Franklin County residents being able to share in it, but right now we have a system that is resulting in different outcomes for people based on the color of their skin. That’s not acceptable.”
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