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WPHA Calls on Leaders to Acknowledge Racism as a Public Health Crisis
May 2020

In the midst of the latest killing of an African American man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, MN, the Wisconsin Public Health Association shares the grief of Americans everywhere. WPHA calls on leaders for reform as the d evastating effect of systematic racism and oppression targeting people of color in our communities continues. In the face of America’s continued structural racism and violence against individuals and communities of color, we all must do more.  Our hearts go out to Mr. Floyd and his family, and to the people of Minneapolis where lives are in jeopardy right now as residents come out of their homes in unsafe environments to condemn Mr. Floyd’s killing.

We call on our members - It is our responsibility as public health professionals to identify and name structural racism as a key determinant of population health. In May of 2018, WPHA passed the resolution naming Racism as a Public Health Crisis. This resolution acknowledges that racism causes persistent discrimination, is a social determinant of health and is linked to poor health outcomes. The public health community has a responsibility to acknowledge racism, advocate for equitable policies and inform the public discourse. We see the horrific effects of racism in our communities every day. We cannot remain silent. We must care for all equitably, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or other status.

We know that that exposure to chronic toxic stress negatively impacts health – all the way from birth outcomes to chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension to premature weathering and aging. The Wisconsin Public Health Association calls upon local, state and national leaders to acknowledge that racism is an ongoing problem in the United States; commit to calling for an end to racist language, practices and policies; listen to people who have experienced racism; and value and affirm the human rights of all people.

What can you do as members, as professionals, as community members?

Be present and compassionate for the people who are most impacted by this tragedy. Name it and have conversations – even when that feels uncomfortable. Listen when people of color tell you about their experiences and believe them. It is imperative to speak out when you see injustice and racism. Ask questions about equity without burdening those already bearing the weight of white supremacy. Do your own learning AND un-learning and be humble and gentle yourself through this process. Below are some tools for you to review, think about, and act on:

Thank you for your commitment to racial equity and social justice.

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