Updated: Jan 20
noun: side-eye : a sidelong glance expressing disapproval or contempt.
Less Posturing, More Policy. If Racism Is a Public Health Crisis, DO SOMETHING to Change It.
Since May of 2019, more than one hundred local governments across the United States have declared racism a public health crisis. Of those, eighteen are in California including the County Boards of Supervisors of Riverside, San Bernadino, and Santa Clara counties. With a Supervisor like Phil Serna - who nearly ten years ago as a newly-elected member of the Board championed the county's work with community leaders in response to a reports about the disproportionate deaths of African American children - we really thought Sac would've been on that list. Or better yet, on that list and doing something about it.
Thirty years worth of public health research on the topic can be distilled into just seven words: being black is bad for your health. The push by activists across the country to get local municipalities to declare racism a public health issue are intended to plant the seed of institutional change, and to be followed by policies and budget allocations that address the problem, in the same way that Supervisor Serna's Blue Ribbon Commission aimed to, and has found success in.
Word on the street is that Phil is going to declare racism a public health crisis via a resolution which has no teeth or cooooines $$$ tied to it. That's the kind of posturing we give a side-eye and a "miss me with that" to.
Supervisor Serna, don't be calling racism a public health crisis immediately after ignoring a well-prepared and organized request by more than 2,000 county residents, asking you and your colleagues to ACTUALLY ADDRESS THE PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS THAT IS RACISM, WITH RESOURCES IN-HAND.
It's deep yall...
Let us explain. In the weeks leading up to the September 10 Board of Supervisors meeting, thousands of community members called and emailed their elected representatives asking them to please reallocate federal CARES Act dollars from cops to community. Constituents asked Serna and his colleagues to take $1.5M (exactly 1%) of the $125.8M they had given to law enforcement, and put it into evidence-based community mental health, housing, and public health programs.
Phil Serna is a smart man. He knows alllllll the tea about the criminal justice system's adverse impact on and disproportionate targeting of BIPOC people. (We also think he knows that our county's sheriff especially is a big, fat, flaming racist). So WHY THEN, in the same meeting that the community was asking for a pittance of an allocation to address social issues perpetuated by 400-years-old racist policies, did Serna champion $2 million for body cameras and six new officers, despite years of research demonstrating they do not improve police behavior or accountability?
What Phil needs to do is make this RESOLUTION into an ORDINIANCE, which has more teeth and allows the Public Health Officer to spend funds to address racism as the public health crisis and emergency that it is. DO. IT. NOW. We only have five meetings left in the year when you are Chair. Next year, Frosty Sue will be chair and you know that ain't happening.
Start putting the County's money where you say its values should be: you've got nothing to lose but your integrity, and the people of this community have nothing to lose but their chains. (That part.)