Re: Declaring Racism to Be a Public health Crisis in California
Dear Governor Newsom,
I write on behalf of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) and the undersigned organizations to urge you to immediately issue an Executive Order to declare racism to be a public health crisis in the state of California. We appreciate the remarkable leadership that you have demonstrated in California’s COVID-19 pandemic response, uplifting and uniting a cross-sectional group of leaders and experts: the very leadership that is needed for a broader anti-racism conversation in the Golden State.
CPEHN was founded in 1992, following the Rodney King police beating and subsequent outcry in Los Angeles, to unite African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Latinx and Native Americans in our fight for health equity. Over the last 28 years, our organization and partners have worked to reduce health disparities for Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color (BIPOC) and to improve health systems for all Californians. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic fall on Black, Native American, Latinx and Pacific Islanders in California. In these past few weeks, we have joined the nationwide outrage over the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and countless more Black lives lost to police violence, white supremacy and systemic racism. We are outraged at the lack of progress in racial, economic and health equity in the last nearly three decades, but also are hopeful that this is a historic moment for all of us to implement the bold and broad changes that will finally make a difference.
Prior to 2020, the impacts of systemic racism, not race, on public health and health disparities have been well-documented. For instance, amongst all race/ethnic groups in California, African Americans have the lowest life expectancy, the highest burden of disease from preventable cause, and the poorest access to mental health care. Compared to their white counterparts, Black children are five times more likely to have an emergency department visit due to asthma, Black women four times more likely to die from childbirth, and Black men ten times more likely to be imprisoned. Our communities have been exercising their right to public assembly and protest against the same racism that perpetuates inequities in our physical and mental health. Meanwhile, racism is attacking and threatening our already underfunded public health infrastructure, putting all Californians at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our communities need justice, reform, and healing now. We urge the state declare racism to be a statewide public health crisis, which would serve as an important first step in the state’s acknowledgement of its own racist history through the present day, and would establish specific commitments and measurable actions for beginning to undo the racism that prevents all Californians, especially BIPOC, from achieving optimal health and well-being.
California should follow in the footsteps of local governments and public health leaders nationwide.