Bill Atkinson, The Progress-Index, February 23, 2021
Virginia, a state long associated with racist and segregationist behavior, is now only a signature away from becoming the first state in the South to declare racism a public health crisis.
The Virginia State Senate on Tuesday, on a voice vote, approved the declaration and sent it on to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam, who is expected to sign it.
The resolution addresses five specific issues:
- Expand VDH’s Office of Health Equity to be the primary watchdog for ensuring policies addressing racism are implemented;
- Make the Commission to Examine Racial Ineuity in Virginia Law permanent;
- Establish training for all state elected officials, their staff members and state employees on recognizing racism;
- Create a list of definitions and terms on racism and health equity; and
- Promote community engagement across the state on recognizing racism.
It continues a trend led by Democrats controlling both the governor’s office and the General Assembly to recast Virginia as a progressive leader, especially around racial issues.
The American Public Health Association, which tracks declarations of racism as a public health issue, lists 145 cities and counties across 27 states – up from only seven in 2019.