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Kalamazoo Co. Commissioners declare ‘racism as a public health crisis’

Commissioner Stephanie Moore says ‘it’s big step forward to addressing systemic racism’ after colleagues voted 9-2 to pass resolutions
Posted at 8:54 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 21:12:31-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — During Tuesday night's Kalamazoo County Commissioners virtual meeting, Stephanie Moore had a challenge for her fellow board members.

“One of the things that I challenged all of my colleagues with last night is if you don’t feel like you can represent every person in Kalamazoo County, then you should not be in that space, in a decision-making seat where you have to advocate for everybody,” Moore said during an interview with FOX 17 on Wednesday. “Yes we are elected to various districts. But, our oath of office says that we represent all of Kalamazoo County.”

Moore introduced two resolutions that she felt were inclusive of all communities in the county, especially the Black community. One was a resolution declaring racism as a public health issue and the other was to put an end to police brutality.

The resolutions were voted on and passed 9-2.

“In Kalamazoo right now we are declaring racism as a pubic health crisis,” Moore said. “So, going forward, everything that we do in terms of policy, in terms of procedure and how we deploy our services in the community, first will be thought of from a race perspective.”

She said the goal is to bring justice and equity to everyone and to bring changes to policing within Kalamazoo Public Safety and the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office.

She added that what's happening around the country in terms of police brutality is what's happening in Kalamazoo.

“We’ve had experiences where people are saying ‘I cannot breathe,’ from choke holds, to being aggressively arrested, to being beaten,” Moore continued. “There’s been complaints for years and years.”

Moore said she hopes the resolutions will lead to better health outcomes for the Black community.

"With COVID-19, during this pandemic, you see that African Americans are disproportionately impacted with being positive for the virus but also having the worst health outcomes including death," Moore said. "We make up a certain amount of the population yet we have the highest rate of the disparities."

Moore said the resolutions were three years in the making and she's grateful they've passed. However, they have a long way to go.

Moore suggested the best way forward is for local government officials and local leaders to undergo social justice training and to meet with the Equity Task Force to begin to have hard conversations about race.

“A year ago county leadership dissociated itself with this think tank, with this group of individuals right here from Kalamazoo who are experienced and are policy makers to be able to do this work,” Moore said. “But, we saw the turnaround last night. I’m so happy. It’s been a long journey but now we took a big step forward to start really addressing systemic racism in local government.”