City-County Council declares racism a public health crisis in Marion County

By Fox59 Web | WXIN 59 (Fox, Indianapolis)
June 8, 2020

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis City-County Council unanimously passed a proposal Monday night to declare racism a public health crisis in Marion County.

The special resolution, authored by Council President Vop Osili, was on the agenda for the council’s meeting at 7 p.m. Monday. Proposal 182 is a continuation of a February resolution that aimed to address racial inequities in the city.

Osili released the following statement Monday after the passing of the proposal:

I want to thank my Council colleagues who stood together tonight to address the public health crisis in our community caused by pervasive and systemic racism. Our city is calling for frank, meaningful dialogue and action on the impact of systemic racism on Black lives, and tonight was another important step forward in answering that call.

I also want to express my appreciation to all Councillors for their swift action tonight to expeditiously appropriate more than $76M in federal C.A.R.E.S Act and FEMA funding, including $15M for rental assistance, $3M for food security, and $7M in aid to local nonprofits and small businesses to help them reopen and begin rebuilding our economy.

Together, this evening we took both a significant first step in our city’s recovery from the impact of the coronavirus and advanced our local government’s conversation about race and equity in acknowledging the negative public health impact and deeply felt pain that systemic racism has caused our Black community.

Indianapolis City-County Council President Vop Osili

Public health officials say African-Americans have less access to quality health care, healthy food choices and mental health services. The Harvard University School of Public Health recently noted that police-related violence killed black Americans at the three times the rate as white Americans.

Mayor Joe Hogsett said Monday the racial disparities have been highlighted over the last few months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our black and brown residents have been burdened by access to food, access to health care and a prevalence of preexisting conditions,” Hogsett said. “It is indeed a public health crisis, and it is among the very top of the list.”

Indianapolis Chief Deputy Mayor Tim Cook said Mayor Hogsett’s signature was already on the proposal.

Faith in Indiana spokesperson Sa’Ra Skipper applauded the proposed declaration, while still awaiting more specifics on what it will do for the community. She said she lives in a food desert near 38th Street and Post Road, and her mother is in a similar situation.

“My mom lives right up the street, 46th and Arlington, food desert,” Skipper said. “But we can go on Allisonville Road, or on Binford, or we can go further down Pendleton Pike and we can see there’s grocery stores.”

Aside from physical health, Skipper hopes the resolution will also address the mental and emotional health of African Americans in Indianapolis.

“It is exhausting to be black,” she said. “It is exhausting to have black or brown skin just because you never know who may look at you as a threat.”

Click here to read Proposal 182.

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