INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis city-county council unanimously passed a resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis in Marion County, following a tense few weeks of protests that have rocked the nation while coronavirus disproportionately tears through black communities.
The resolution was passed by a new council that plans to study and address racial disparities in the city.
In Marion County, those disparities exist in a variety of forms.
Black residents have tested positive for coronavirus at a rate nearly twice as high as the rate for white residents. They also make up a disproportionate number of coronavirus deaths.
Last year, three out of every four criminal homicide victims in Indianapolis were black.
And black residents are more likely to live in a food desert than any other race or ethnicity in the county, according to one 2019 SAVI report.
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"This is a first great step, but it is a beginning," Virginia Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department, told councilors on Monday. "And I'm looking forward to the city council to come back with some concrete recommendations that can really help address this issue. Not just the symptoms, but how do we get to it systemically."
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Although Monday's proposal focuses particularly on black residents, Council President Vop Osili noted the country's 400 years of racism against black Americans.
"I want to clarify again that the racial disparities and the racism that we find most prevalent in this country is not about Hispanic or Latinos, and I know they do experience it as well, but the prevalent racism is with black communities," he said. "And I don't want to lessen that or I don't want to soften that."
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett expressed support for the resolution earlier on Monday, saying that racism was indeed a public health crisis for the city.
Follow IndyStar reporter Amelia Pak-Harvey on Twitter @AmeliaPakHarvey.
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