Opinion: Racism is a public health crisis

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Sen. Marshall Bullock

Addressing racial inequity in Michigan is the top priority for the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC). There are too many people — from Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Muskegon Heights and especially in the City of Detroit, where I reside — who are still struggling, being shut out of opportunities and left behind. This needs to change.

COVID-19 has overwhelmingly devastated America’s Black and Brown communities due to a variety of issues, not the least of which are the pre-existing health care disparities that have resulted from a history of institutional racism in this country. It’s widely known that the primary predictors of life expectancy for these communities are dictated by the lingering effects of redlining and the invisible ZIP code barriers that determine education, job status, family and social support, income and community safety. This reality is what feeds the gap between the disproportionate number of African Americans dying from COVID-19 and everyone else.

Long before the arrival of COVID-19, the MLBC was working to close the gaps on health care disparities, educational inequities, workforce labor concerns, and criminal justice reform. Michigan has even now formed a Racial Disparities Task Force to further inspect the prevalent issues the virus exposed, and we continue to work tirelessly to identify and implement impactful solutions. 

What does recovery even look like for Michigan’s Black and Brown communities in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic? How much of the responsibility for recovery must we shoulder on our own? The only route to recovery in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds is to acknowledge the scale of the problem and work collaboratively with representatives from the entire state.

Michigan cannot recover in the process, if everyone is not at the table and invested in the change, yet too many of our elected leaders refuse to look in the mirror and acknowledge the problem, which has led to a gross lack of desire to correct it. What is even more disheartening is the stubborn persistence of partisan, political games that devalue the importance of people’s lives.

On June 4, Senate Concurrent Resolution 27 was introduced to declare racism a public health crisis in Michigan. Unfortunately, it was sent to the Committee on Government Operations, where it still sits today, dead upon arrival. The silence from the Senate Majority is shameful, especially when Michiganders supported the spirit and intent of this resolution, as evidenced by the recent mock “funeral” held by protesters in Jackson, where many mourned its death.

Inaction and silence are no longer an option.

COVID-19 has overwhelmingly devastated America’s Black and Brown communities due to a variety of issues, not the least of which are the pre-existing health care disparities that have resulted from a history of institutional racism in this country.

While the MLBC continues to work to influence legislative action, Black America must move forward on those things that we can do on our own.  Educating ourselves on the profound impacts of lifestyle improvements on our mortality and morbidity such as eating healthier, exercise, refraining from smoking, selecting a primary care physician, and making regular preventive care appointments are just a few examples. Socioeconomic factors notwithstanding, we can do better. 

We cannot wait any longer when our own lives are at stake. Our Black Lives Matter, today, tomorrow, and every day.

Sen. Marshall Bullock is the Chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus and represents portions of Wayne County including Detroit, Allen Park, Lincoln Park and Southgate in the Michigan Senate.

One thought on “Opinion: Racism is a public health crisis

  1. I have to agree. Many minorities of color receive the poorest of healthcare, including housing. I would like to add that distrust
    of authorities, could lead to many of these factors. Census taking, voting, police needs, community programs. If people expect under a socialist government, they will
    just walk door-to-door handing our money, does not work that way. I would think a socialist government will want personal info, even by force. What happened to the USSR? Start by building a community, no matter how small. Block by block.

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