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Gov. Whitmer addresses racism as ‘public health crisis’, state response in live press conference

 (Source: Governor Gretchen Whitmer's office)
(Source: Governor Gretchen Whitmer's office) (WILX)
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 11:03 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - On Wednesday, Gov. Whitmer addressed the state of Michigan in a live press conference. Gov. Whitmer acknowledged a need for a national comprehensive testing plan. Also, Whitmer brought up passing a recovery package to support state government, families, frontline workers, and small business owners.

Gov. Whitmer has signed two new directive orders. The first order recognizes racism as a public health crisis as well as steps to take to further address it within local government; pushing for implicit bias training being mandatory for all state employees. The second order put into place is the creation of the Black Leadership Advisory Council.

“Since I was sworn in as governor, I have made it a top priority to include more people of color, more women, and more members of the LGBTQ+ community at the table. We’ve been able to build a more inclusive state government, but there is more work to do. That’s why today, I am proud to create the Black Leadership Advisory Council of Michigan,” said Gov. Whitmer. “We must confront systemic racism head on so we can create a more equitable and just Michigan. This is not about one party or person. I hope we can continue to work towards building a more inclusive and unbiased state that works for everyone.”

The Black Leadership Advisory Council will include a diverse variety of commissions within the state of Michigan. There are 16 voting members representing Black leadership in economics, public policy, health and wellness, technology, the environment, agriculture, arts and culture. They will have to be able to provide annual reports.

The Council will act in an advisory capacity to the governor and develop, review, and recommend policies and actions designed to eradicate and prevent discrimination and racial inequity in Michigan.

The council’s main objectives are the following:

  • Identifying state laws, or gaps in state law, that create or perpetuate inequities, with the goal of promoting economic growth and wealth equity for the Black community.
  • ·Collaborating with the governor’s office and the Black community to promote legislation and regulation that ensures equitable treatment of all Michiganders, and seeks to remedy structural inequities in this state.
  • Serving as a resource for community groups on issues, programs, sources of funding, and compliance requirements within state government in order to benefit and advance the interests of the Black community.
  • Promoting the cultural arts within the Black community through coordinated efforts, advocacy, and collaboration with state government.
  • Providing other information or advice or taking other actions as requested by the governor.

“Governor Whitmer recognizes the importance of this issue as well and has taken executive action to create the Black Leadership Advisory Council, which I am proud to support. I look forward to seeing this commission come to fruition and ensuring its statutory status as with other ethnic commissions, so that our state can continue to tackle the issues that impact our Black brothers and sisters long into the future,” said Senator Erika Geiss.

The rate of reported COVID-19 cases for Black/African American residents is 14,703 per 1,000,000, compared with 4,160 per 1,000,000 for white residents, more than three times higher than white residents.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun stated that racial and systemic inequity presents itself in issues like “cancer mortality, infant mortality, and maternal mortality.” Dr. Khaldun also stated that Michigan’s efforts to engage in social distancing and preventative measures has helped the number of positive tests go from “3.4% to 3.7%.”

“These past several months have been difficult for all of us, but they have been especially tough for Black and Brown people who for generations have battled the harms caused by a system steeped in persistent inequalities. These are the same inequities that have motivated so many Americans of every background to confront the legacy of systemic racism that has been a stain on our state and nation from the beginning,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II.

As it pertains to racism, the new executive order urges MDHHS to work with other state departments to examine data, develop and plan policies, and engage, communicate and advocate for communities of color. With implicit bias training, employees will be able to better understand the unconscious preferences they experience without intentional control and how it can impact others. The training will be required for existing employees and must be completed within 60 days for newly hired employees.

The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities will work in partnership with departments to develop a plan that details how Michigan can eliminate disparities in health outcomes for our residents.

MDHHS has introduced an Equity Impact Assessment (EIA) tool to help prevent implicit bias from affecting the policies and practices the department develops to serve the community.

To apply to the Black Leadership Advisory Council, click here.

Applications are due Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Copyright 2020 WILX. All rights reserved.

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