The Montgomery County Council has declared that racism is a public health crisis.
The council took that position through a resolution it unanimously passed on Tuesday.
According to a 2019 racial equity report for the county, Black residents, in comparison to white residents, in the county have higher rates of:
● Unemployment: 7.5% (vs. 3.3%)
● Poverty: 11.2% (vs. 4.0%)
● Dropping out: 6.3% (vs. 2.1%)
Black residents, compared to white residents, have lower rates of:
● Homeownership: 42.5% (vs. 73.2%)
● College degree attainment : 44% (vs. 65%)
Black residents also have, on average, a lower annual household income: $73,000 vs. $119,000
Black residents are twice as likely to be arrested as other county residents, according to the resolution.
There are also higher levels of infant and maternal mortality among Black residents in the county, according to a 2019 Department of Health and Human Services report that analyzed data between 2008 and 2017.
Council Member Will Jawando said racism is embedded in system structures and is hurting Black and brown people.
“It’s literally killing them. It is an emergency and it is a public health crisis,” said Jawando, who is Black and spearheaded the resolution.
The council plans to push for Gov. Larry Hogan and the state legislature to call for a similar declaration at the state level.
Between 1619, when the first enslaved Africans arrived in America, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Black people and other people of color have been enslaved or faced discrimination, Jawando said.
“This systemic racism is as American as apple pie,” he said. “If we’re going to be held up and true to the ideas that we were founded on, we have to take these steps.”
Council Members Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice noted that the resolution builds upon several other council actions regarding race, including the creation of a racial equity and social justice policy in December.
People of color in the community should have the same chance at a long, happy life, Rice said, but are often denied because of the color of their skin.
“It’s something that has to stop,” he said. “We cannot let it continue.”
The county will need to reach “deep down inside” to determine how to move forward in making the community more fair and equitable, Council Member Evan Glass said.
“Now the work begins to look at the decades of and centuries of laws, regulations, policies that have targeted our communities of color,” he said. “This work is going to be hard.”
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.