GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On Wednesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer made Michigan the latest state to declare racism a public health crisis.
The move will allow the state’s departments to better identify and fix issues people of color have accessing their resources.
“This is not alleging that people are racist, it’s recognizing that everyone has biases from where we grew up or how we were raised,” said Governor Whitmer. “It’s just a fact and that’s why we’ve got to acknowledge it and seek to address it.”
Executive Directive 2020-9 recognizes racism as a public health crisis, especially in the state’s healthcare system. Michigan is one of the few states tracking COVID-19 statistics by race, and the data shows black Michiganders make up 40% of the state’s cases, but only 14% of the population.
Executive Order 2020-163 also creates a new Black Leadership Council to be led by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, who also leads the state’s COVID-19 task force on racial disparity.
“Just as we’ve used data and science and evidence to drive action during this crisis, we will use data and science and evidence to act on equity and inclusion,” said Lt. Gov. Gilchrist on Wednesday, adding that data collection will be made public eventually. “This will help departments better understand how racial disparities in societal, environmental and behavioral factors intersect to affect resources like good jobs, access to healthy and affordable food and housing, equitable transportation options, quality public education, and opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs.”
Several states including Colorado, Texas, Massachusetts and Georgia have also declared racism a public health crisis, as have a few cities including recently Kalamazoo and Louisville, where Breonna Taylor was shot and killed.