East Lansing City Council declares racism a public health crisis

Resolution: Racism — not race — often ‘root cause’ of poverty, homelessness, unemployment

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 25 — Amid a year of protests centered on social equity reforms and racial justice, the city of East Lansing is recognizing the health effects of racism on its local population.

The East Lansing City Council formally labeled racism a public health crisis at a meeting yesterday evening, joining other municipalities like Lansing and Ingham County that have done the same in recent months. The resolution serves as an acknowledgment of the negative impact of systemic racism and inequality on Black and brown communities, officials said in a release.

“Black people in particular suffer from more stress because of experiences with racism. That stress can lead to major health problems such as hypertension, high blood pressure and heart disease,” the resolution states. “Racism, not race, is often a root cause of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, poor nutrition, violence and mental health concerns.”

It’s also more than words. The city is also taking steps to actually address the crisis, including: 

  • working to become a more equitable and anti-racist organization;  
  • ensuring anti-racism principles across the city’s leadership, staffing and contracting;
  • promoting equity through all policies approved by the city council; and
  • addressing how these things impact delivering of human services, economic development, and public safety. 

Additionally, the Council has established a study committee to research and develop a framework for a yet-to-form Police Oversight Commission. The Council has also adopted an ordinance in August to amend the City Code to prohibit racially biased crime reporting.

Officials also plan to conduct an annual review to monitor their progress on social equity.

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