LANSING – Racism has officially been declared a public health crisis in Ingham County. The Ingham County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to declare it so Tuesday evening.
The resolution was moved by Commissioner Derrell Slaughter, who worked with partners in both the County and community to write and champion the resolution. Included in the resolution is the creation of a new advisory board, which will be tasked to find community-centered solutions to address the legacy of racial injustices.
“As a young, Black leader, this resolution is a significant, but necessary, action to bring the systemic consequences of racism to the forefront,” Slaughter said. “This is an important moment – and precedent – on how we can take actionable steps to implement anti-racism policies into the fabric of our community. Words are not enough. In Ingham County, we are ready to do the work to take measurable actions to fundamentally change the way we view our budget and the way we view priorities to keep our communities safe and healthy.”
Included in the resolution were examples of structural racism that have occurred within Ingham County including discriminatory housing practices in the 20th century, known as redlining, and the construction of the I-496 expressway that cut through and displaced African-American neighborhoods in the 1960s.
“Racism is rampant across the country and Ingham County needs to be on the forefront in anti-racist action,” said Bryan Crenshaw, chair of the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. “By naming racism a public health crisis, we begin to address it head-on and send the message that status quo isn’t good enough for our residents.”
Ingham County is approximately 12 percent black. In total, approximately 25 percent of the county is a racial or ethnic minority. Overwhelmingly, people who belong to a minority group in Ingham County have higher rates of illness and premature death. This is true at the state and national levels as well.
“People of color are disproportionately affected by infant mortality, maternal mortality, diabetes, asthma, hypertension and even COVID-19,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “This has nothing to do with biology. Health disparities are the effect of a lifetime spent enduring racism in all of its forms, which compounds as it spans generations. I deeply appreciate the Board of Commissioners for hearing and responding to a call to action from myself and our community.”
Per the resolution, the County Clerk will send the resolution to the State of Michigan, Ingham County’s State Legislative delegation, the Michigan Association of Counties and local units of government within Ingham County, urging those entities to take steps to intentionally address and support methods that will strategically reduce the long-term impact of systemic racism.