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Resolution declaring racism a public health crisis heads to House of Delegates floor

Lashrecse Aird
Lashrecse Aird

The House Rules Committee voted 13-5 Friday to send House Resolution 537, which declare racism a public health crisis in the Commonwealth of Virginia, to the floor for a full vote.

The legislation, patroned by Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, highlights steps that Virginia can take to address systemic racism and its impact on public health, including the examination of racial inequity in Virginia law, implicit bias training for public employees and officials, a glossary of terms specific to racism and health equity and engagement with communities most impacted.

“At every turn, at every step, through every system and every institution, there are structural barriers preventing communities of color from obtaining opportunities. This resolution will be a vital first step to finally and formally advancing racial justice and equity,” Aird said.

Over 150 local governments across the country have made declarations to address racism, and five states have declared racism a public health crisis – though none are located in the South.

“We have a powerful opportunity to formally acknowledge systems and structures of inequity that are ravaging communities of color and finally begin the important process of reconciliation,” Aird said. “This is a chance to lead the Commonwealth into a new, hopeful future — a future where the color of your skin does not determine the quality of your life. Communities of color cannot wait any longer.”

Del. Lamont Bagby, chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and a Rules Committee member, noted in today’s hearing that “racism shows up in education, healthcare, financial institutions — it shows up in every corner of the Commonwealth.”

“As the former Capital of the Confederacy, and the epicenter of desegregation it’s so important for Virginia to be a leader in reconciliation. I am so happy to see my friend, Del. Aird, lead us on this critically important issue,” Bagby said.

“Treating the root cause of structural racism has proved more difficult than finding a vaccine for the coronavirus, but Virginia is ready to reckon with our history and leverage the antidote to this 401-year health crisis,” said Dr. Janice Underwood, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer in Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

“We are poised to lead a national conversation about the necessary policy and social changes our state and nation need for collective healing and restoration.  We are one Virginia strong,” Underwood said.


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