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Michigan Designates Racism A Public Health Crisis

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is tackling inequity caused by systemic racism. A new directive aims to eliminate the gaps and advocate for Black lives.
Michigan Designates Racism A Public Health Crisis
Photo by Gabriel Bouys

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order on Wednesday declaring racism a public health crisis. The executive directive introduced by the Democrat leader also includes the creation of a Black Leadership Advisory Council to “elevate Black voices,” according to The Detroit News.

“We must confront systemic racism head on so we can create a more equitable and just Michigan,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This is not about one party or person. I hope we can continue to work towards building a more inclusive and unbiased state that works for everyone.”

Whitmer has several objectives with creating the council and the directive, but overall, the governor wants to address the negative impacts of racism and begin to close the gaps of inequity it has created throughout the state. To assist in doing so, Whitmer has joined with the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Emergency Physicians in declaring institutional racism an urgent public health issue. Her directive requires that state departments examine data and develop a plan and policies to help advocate for communities of color.

Michigan Designates Racism A Public Health Crisis
LANSING, MICHIGAN – May 18, 2020: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer at the Romney Building where her office is located in Lansing, Mich., on May 18, 2020. (Brittany Greeson for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, confirmed, and highlighted the deadly nature of pre-existing inequities caused by systemic racism,” Whitmer notes, adding that the disproportionate numbers in which African-American Michiganders are infected and then die from the virus have been a concern for her office. 

Entities under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services must require that all state employees undergo implicit bias training for employees and “make health equity a major goal.” The council will assist with this by recommending “policies and actions designed to eradicate and prevent discrimination and racial inequity in Michigan.” It will also identify state laws to promote economic growth, collaborate with the governor’s office and the Black community to promote legislation, as well as serve as a resource for community groups and promote the cultural arts within the Black community.

Officials across the state have been vocal about their support of the directive. Both the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor believe this necessary step will make Michigan a greater state.