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What it means and why it matters

RICHMOND, Virginia – Virginia, a state long associated with racist and segregationist behavior, is only one signing away from becoming the first southern state to declare racism a public health crisis.

The Virginia State Senate on Tuesday, on a voice vote, approved the declaration and sent it to the office of Governor Ralph S. Northam, who is expected to sign it.

Sponsored by Del. Lashrecse D. Aird, D-Petersburg, the resolution has already been passed by the House of Delegates on an almost direct party vote, with Republican Del. Carrie E. Coyner of Chesterfield County lining up with the House Democrats to support her.

The resolution addresses five specific issues:

  • Expanding the VDH Health Equity Office to become the main watchdog to ensure that anti-racism policies are implemented;

  • Make the Racial Ineuity Review Board in Virginia permanent;

  • Establish training for all elected officials of the State, their staff members and State employees on the recognition of racism

  • Create a list of definitions and terms on racism and health equity; and

  • Promote community engagement across the state on the recognition of racism.

The vote is significant for having taken place in a state historically linked to the laws of Confederation and Jim Crow, and later by the Massive Resistance against the desegregation of Virginia public schools.

He continues a trend led by Democrats controlling both the governor’s office and the General Assembly to recast Virginia as a progressive leader, especially on racial issues.

Racism is a declared public health problem in 145 cities and counties in 27 states. What is happening now?

Last year, Virginia became the third state to enact a law prohibiting the execution of search warrants without beating, anecdotally dubbed “Breonna’s Law” in memory of the Kentucky woman who was killed when police in Louisville broke into an apartment and exchanged gunshots with the woman. boyfriend.

After Tuesday’s vote, the Aird office issued a statement that systemic racism “defines the experience of black people in our nation and in our Commonwealth.”

The resolution, she added, “provides the framework for all of us to formally and ultimately address these injustices so that we can build a more equitable and just society for all of us.”

The American Public Health Association, which tracks claims of racism as a public health issue, lists 145 cities and counties in 27 states – up from just seven in 2019.

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The declaration is an important first step, experts told USA TODAY in November. It’s the next step, however, that will determine whether the statements are purely token or something more.

“I really hope these efforts are met with significant resources and a significant willingness to be able to share power,” said Tiffany Green, assistant professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin.

She added: “What I would like people to understand about racism is that it is not about blaming individuals for problems. It is a societal problem that prevents us from being all we can be.

Contributor: Jordan Culver, USA TODAY

Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter: @BAtkinson_PI.

This article originally appeared in The Progress-Index: Virginia Senate Votes To Make Racism A Public Health Crisis. And now?


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