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Rep. Ayanna Pressley Is Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis With Her New Bill

In the midst of a global pandemic, a national racial outcry has erupted here in the U.S. The killing of George Floyd put on display the haunting and dangerous effects of systemic racism. Although it may seem like the country is in the middle of only one health crisis, it’s actually in the middle of two.

“Racism is a public health crisis,” Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley tweeted these six words earlier this summer. This tweet brought on varied responses — some positive, some negative. However, a little over a month later, Rep. Pressley is now pushing for the passage of a new bill with the same message. Named the “Anti-Racism in Public Health Act,” this bill seeks to identify systemic racism as a public health crisis here in the United States. With Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a co-sponsor, the bill will create a National Center for Anti-Racism within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here, anti-racist federal health policies would be developed as well as programs on preventing police violence.

This concept is not a new one. Racism has been classified as a public health crisis by organizations like The American Public Association. Professionals have classified racism has a public health issue for over a decade. Statistics even show that racism is in fact a public health crisis as life expectancy for Black Americans is six years shorter than whites. Black people in the US face higher rates of disease, and Black women are four times as likely to die from childbirth than white women. Currently, one in every four COVID-19 related deaths has been a Black American. 

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Since 2019, local governments have called for the classification of racism as a public health issue. Over 50 local American governments since then have passed laws and declared systemic racism as a danger to public health. Counties in states like California, Georgia and Massachusetts have all named racism as a public health issue. In Kings County, Washington, the government has declared racism a public health crisis and adopting an “Anti-Racism Crisis Response Bill of Rights.” In Milwaukee County, an ordinance passed allowing thousands of county employees to go through racial equity training. 

Rep. Pressley’s mission to make racism a national public health crisis is gaining more and more attention. People are calling for their cities and counties to join the list of those that are declaring racism as a public health issue. Support is growing for this new bill and for more direct action when it comes to having a safer and more equal health environment for people of color. 

“For far too long, our federal government has failed to recognize and address the structural racism that has devastated Black and brown communities and denied access to quality healthcare,” Rep. Pressley said in a statement, according to The Washington Post

There is hope that this bill will not only be a step in the direction of equity and equality for people color, but also a sign that concrete and direct measures are being taken to root out systemic racism. 

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Hi! I'm a Junior at Florida State University, and I spend most of my time on Instagram and Twitter! I love creating content and binge-watching my favorite shows. I love Jesus, I'm kinda big on politics, and Olivia Pope is my spirit animal!
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