Burlington, Vermont’s mayor was joined by leaders of the city’s Black community this morning to declare racism a public health crisis.
Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger was joined by spiritual, business and political leaders in front of City Hall to announce the community commitment to take action to eliminate race-based discrimination especially in public health. “Today Burlington joins a small but growing number of cities who have declared that racism is a public health crisis. We are doing it the Burlington way by making this declaration as a community not just issuing a city government decree. This movement of attacking racism as a public health emergency is gathering strength today because coronavirus has laid bare for all to see a terrible long-standing truth of American life. As a result of deeply embedded structural racism Black and Brown Americans experience far worse health outcomes than their white contemporaries.”
Vermont Racial Justice Alliance Director Mark Hughes said there will be tough times ahead and possible backlash to the effort but people must remain committed. “We will never ever have an opportunity to seize a moment like this again. So remain committed and then give something up because, I’m talking to white people right now, give something up. Do something. Because as white people this thing called systemic racism not only does it benefit you but you also automatically contribute to the pain and suffering of Black folks if you do nothing. So do something.”
More than 30 organizations are participating in the declaration and will take action to eliminate health based discrimination and systemic racism. The city plans to create a new Public Health Equity Manager; work with the Racial Justice Alliance to allocate $1 million in the 2021 city budget earmarked for racial justice and empowerment and initiate all-employee anti-racism training.
Burlington’s Director of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Tyeastia Green says few cities across the country are making such moves and she believes it will have a substantial impact on how things are done. “I don’t want people to look for instant gratification because this is going to be a long process. This is 401 years in the making. It’s a lot to unravel. There’s a lot of systems at play. There’s a lot of policies and legislation and just practices of how we do things. It’s American culture itself is being judged right now. And so this is something that we can’t look for instant gratification for. So we’re putting the wheels in motion to get things started. You know I don’t feel comfortable saying well in six months we’re going to see this because that’s not how this type of thing works.”
City officials, advocates and volunteers will paint a Black Lives Matter mural on the Main Street adjacent to City Hall Sunday afternoon.