Milwaukee County Executive Declares Racism A Public Health Crisis

Chris Abele acknowledges racial issues in Milwaukee and signs a resolution to take action.
  • In an effort to promote racial equality in Milwaukee, County Executive Chris Abele signed a resolution on May 20 declaring racism a public health crisis.

    During the Monday signing, Abele said this resolution is "about action,” according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

    "Everybody has been reading and hearing about the same set of statistics in Milwaukee for decades," he said at the signing. "We lead in an unfortunate way the racial disparities in employment, in education, incarceration, income and even things like ... access to capital."

    Abele went on to say the resolution is intended to make sure every decision made across the county should be framed in terms of how to eradicate racial disparities.

    Also present at the signing were County supervisors Marcelia Nicholson and Supreme Moore Omokunde and Milwaukee County Office on African American Affairs Director Nicole Brookshire.

  • “We need to see racism as a rotting apple tree whose roots are permeating these systems,” County Supervisor Marcelia Nicholson said at the event.

    During her address, Brookshire explained how racism deeply affects students of color, inequitable practices in government, high death rates and infant mortality, lack of prenatal care and housing segregation.

    "We need to address racism as a public health crisis, but on a large scale to make sure that we transform our culture, transform how we serve our residents and we drive solutions that are equitable," Brookshire told the group.

    Brookshire also said her office wants to work with the community to continue to dismantle institutional and structural racism.

    As part of the resolution, Abele said the county plans to:

    Assess internal policies and procedures to make sure racial equity is a core element of the county.

    Work to create an inclusive organization and identify specific activities to increase diversity.

    Incorporate inclusion and equity, and offer educational training to expand employees' understanding of how racism affects people.

    Advocate for policies that improve health in communities of color.

    Encourage other local, state and national entities to recognize racism as a public health crisis.

    Although the county executives appeared pleased with their work, Milwaukee resident Frank Nitty questions how effective the resolution will be when it comes to actual change.

    “Right now it’s not enforceable. The next step would be to make it enforceable. Once it becomes enforceable, it'll have more of a seriousness to it,” Nitty told the Journal-Sentinel.

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