The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday declaring racism a “public health crisis.”
Commissioners Angela Conley and Irene Fernando introduced the resolution, which passed in a vote of 6-1.
“Ultimately this resolution is about the health and well-being of Hennepin County residents who have borne the brunt of racial discrimination and racial inequity through various different systems,” Conley said in a press release after the resolution passed.
“Year after year after year, we find ourselves as a state and ultimately as the largest county in this state ranking among the worst places to live for Black and Indigenous people. More and more across the country, professionals in the field of public health are saying that we need to name structural racism as the root cause of our work to eliminate disparities,” she added.
According to the press release, the resolution directs Hennepin County to advocate for policies to “improve health outcomes” in communities of color, support “initiatives to dismantle systemic racism,” and incorporate the public health crisis of racism into “budget hearing materials.”
Additionally, the resolution directs the county to “conduct an assessment related to all human resources, vendor selection, and grant management activities with a racial equity lens.”
“Hennepin County will support local, state, regional, and federal initiatives that advance efforts to dismantle systemic racism; will seek partnership with local organizations that have a legacy and track record of confronting racism; and will promote community efforts to amplify issues of racism to engage actively and authentically with communities of color wherever they live,” the resolution states.
County Board Chair Marion Greene said the passage of the resolution is a step in the right direction.
“We must acknowledge the harmful effect of racism on health and wellness,” she said. “For example, Black women have a higher rate of maternal death than their white counterparts. This can’t be explained away. It clearly shows that racism is corrosive to health.”
Last month, Fernando and Conley voted to remove the county’s medical examiner because they didn’t like the results of his autopsy in the case of George Floyd. The autopsy revealed that Floyd tested positive for the coronavirus, had fentanyl and meth in his blood, and had a number of underlying health conditions.
The two commissioners said Chief Medical Examiner Andrew Baker’s autopsy did “irreparable damage to the Black community.”
“This is yet another reason people who look like me do not trust the justice system to bring justice to us. We are too often criminalized by the way we look while living and even in death,” Conley said after voting against reinstating Baker.
Conley and Fernando were among the first state leaders to call for the “immediate arrest” of all four officers involved in the alleged murder of Floyd. Both represent portions of Minneapolis on the Board of Commissioners.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Hennepin County Commissioners Angela Conley, Irene Fernando and Marion Greene” by Hennepin County Government.