Chicago Mayor Declares Racism A Public Health Crisis
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has officially declared systemic racism a public health crisis in her city.
On Thursday (June 17), the mayor said disparities in access to effective and affordable health care, the impact of racism on the mental health of people of color, and the resulting difference in life expectancy is killing the Black community.
“At almost every point in our city’s history, sadly, racism has taken a devastating toll on the health and well-being of our residents of color, and particularly those who are Black,” Lightfoot said, according to CBS Chicago. “Without formally acknowledging this history and reality, and the continuing impact of that infamous legacy, looking at the root causes of today’s challenges, we will never be able to move forward as a city and fully provide our communities with the resources that we need to live happy, vibrant, and fulfilled lives.”
Lightfoot made her announcement near the site of where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family lived for six months in 1966 when he joined a campaign against racist housing policies.
Chicago is just the latest city to make the declaration, which has been made in many major cities across America.
“When we think about racism, many of us think about it in visible and audible forms, but the reality is the insidious nature of systemic racism has other impacts that are every bit as deep and harmful, but often ones that we can’t see, like the impacts on the psyche and other impacts on our bodies that are just as, if not more deadly,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot also cited her parent’s childhood and upbringing in the segregated Deep South and how they were denied their dreams due to racism in the 1920s. She said her mother wanted to be a nurse while her father wanted to be a lawyer.
“My parents, like so many others of their generation and other generations were indoctrinated to believe that they could never, ever be able to reach for and accomplish their dreams,” she said. “This was and still is the case for far too many Black residents and residents of color in our city, and ladies and gentlemen, it is literally killing us here in Chicago.”
A recent report by the Chicago Department of Public Health reveals the life expectancy rate among Black Chicagoans is 9.2 years shorter than non-Black residents. Lightfoot says that gap has only increased over the past 10 years.
“Those sobering statistics stem from disproportionate rates of chronic diseases born of historic disparities in medical treatment, safe spaces to exercise, access to nutritious food, the overrepresentation of Black and Latinx residents in low-wage and frontline workforces where health care benefits are non-existent in many instances, where employees often work in close proximity to each other and are less able to take paid time off when they are sick. And the list goes on and on,” Lightfoot said. “We can no longer allow racism to rob our residents of the opportunity to live and lead full, happy, and healthy lives.”