Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a public declaration Thursday that racism is a public health emergency.
Under that declaration, which was joined by the Chicago Department of Public Health, she announced that the city would spend nearly $10 million in coronavirus relief funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on anti-racism efforts.
The mayor noted the life-expectancy gap between Blacks and other ethnic groups in Chicago — about nine years, according to Fox News — as justifying the declaration.
“At almost every single point in our city’s history, racism has taken a devastating toll on the health and well-being of our residents of color – especially those who are Black,” Ms. Lightfoot said in a statement. “Without formally acknowledging this detrimental impact, we will never be able to move forward as a city and fully provide our communities with the resources they need to live happy and healthy lives.”
The city’s “will to act” initiative will focus on addressing the effects of Jim Crow restrictions, redlining, and “other forms of financial and housing segregation and discrimination,” her statement said.
Activists applauded the $10 million initiative establishing six Healthy Chicago Equity Zones to cover the whole city.
“The launch of the Healthy Chicago Equity Zones is an extension of the racial and health equity work implemented by community leaders, public health entities, city government, and health institutions,” said Ayesha Jaco, executive director of West Side United.
The notion that racism is a public-health issue was used last summer by some government officials to justify allowing, encouraging and even joining Black Lives Matter protests despite both the onerous lockdowns of schools, churches and nursing homes and authorities’ criticism of anti-lockdown protests as “super spreader events.”
Hundreds of public health workers signed an open letter last June saying that anti-lockdown protests “not only oppose public health interventions, but are also rooted in white nationalism and run contrary to respect for Black lives.”
“Protests against systemic racism, which fosters the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on Black communities and also perpetuates police violence, must be supported,” last year’s letter proclaimed.