Genesee County declares racism a public health emergency

Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 6:05 PM EDT
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(6/10/2020) - One week after the Flint City Council declared racism a public health emergency, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners followed suit.

The request came from a Flint researcher and a Flint activist. The pair explained, unlike Flint, minorities do not make up the majority of the county's population and they need everyone on board to impact systematic change.

“In the world of research if you didn't write it down, it didn't happen; and that's the same thing with protests and with movements, we have to move on policy after we move in the streets,” Dr. Kent Key explained.

The researcher with Michigan State University added, “The most infectious and the most deadliest cancer that we are experiencing in this country is racism. And until we do that, until we address that, all of these disparities and inequities are going to continue to play out.”

With the County's passing of the resolution came this list of real changes that Dr. Key, a researcher at Michigan State University, and longtime Flint activist Nayyirah Shariff are eager to start tackling.

“Keep your ears and eyes open,” Dr. Key said. “We will be asking members of the community, of the Genesee County community, to be a part of a think tank, to be a part of a, of a strategic group, to kind of outline what we see what we need to do and what we may need to do to get there.”

Dr. Key explained the emergency declaration opens the door to financial help in their mission of combating systematic racism.

“To create programs, to do research and interventions with a strategic intent on addressing and identifying the role that racism plays in various disparities, whether it is physical health, mental health, as you can see with the protests social health financial health and etc,” he explained.

While it's a major undertaking, they said this declaration, on top of the growing conversation across the country, is helping them stay optimistic.

“It can be eradicated,” Shariff said. “Because, I mean, like the hearts and minds happens later; but, when we have laws that we can enforce, then it makes it a lot easier.”