NC county’s board of commissioners declare racism a public health crisis

North Carolina news

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Racism has been declared a public health crisis in Mecklenburg County. It’s now one of several places in the United States considering systemic racism as a matter of public health.

The meeting itself had eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence in response to the death of George Floyd, but the proclamation focused less on how he died and had more to do with the issues that leaders say have become evident since.

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That silence was solemn and set the tone for Mecklenburg County Commissioners. Among the first things they wanted to tackle was racism and specifically, calling it a public health crisis.

“That was a unanimous ‘yes, vote,’” said Susan Rodriguez-McDowell, a Mecklenburg County Commissioner.

The proclamation is largely symbolic and follows similar measures passed in other parts of the country. Cities and counties in the likes of Wisconsin, Texas, Maryland, and Ohio and now, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina – but in Mecklenburg, they want more.

“How can this proclamation have real meaning, how can it have real steps?” asked Rodriguez-McDowell.

The proclamation may come from the reaction to the death of George Floyd, but Floyd’s name was nowhere on it.

The issues in there dealt with social and economic factors along with health. Minorities have been disproportionately hit by everything from high blood pressure and diabetes to HIV and COVID-19.

A taskforce back in 2006 sought to address those disparities, but in the years since, commissioners say it has gotten worse.

“We really have to remain focused on changing our systems,” Rodriguez-McDowell said.

Commissioners voted to send this proclamation to every county in North Carolina and while they say the power they have to directly address it is limited, they want to use their influence to address it for the greater good.

“We are responsible for addressing the conditions that led to African-Americans and others of color, who come in to contact with the criminal justice system,” said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller.

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