Brown, Booker, Harris introduce Senate resolution declaring racism a public health crisis


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced a Senate resolution to declare racism a public health crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has been the great revealer – underscoring the racial disparities that continue to pervade public health as a direct result of systemic racism, Brown said.

Barriers to quality health care access, housing, jobs, wages and so much else contribute to stark health disparities for communities of color, the Ohio senator said. This virus has proven especially lethal for those communities – the infection, hospitalization and mortality rates are disproportionately high among Black, Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native populations.

Data show 22 percent of COVID-19 patients are Black, when Black people make up 13 percent of the entire population, and 33 percent of COVID-19 patients are Latino, when they make up18 percent of the entire population.

Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT-5) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“We will not make progress until we acknowledge and address all of the ways that centuries of racism and oppression have harmed Black and brown Americans,” Brown said. “This resolution is an important step toward recognizing the racial disparities in health care that have existed for far too long while also outlining concrete action we can take now to help reverse them. Though this resolution is not a solution in and of itself, it will help to lay the foundation for change that is continually subverted by and for the status quo. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important resolution.”

“For too long, communities of color have suffered disproportionately from countless illnesses and conditions, from maternal and infant mortality to now COVID-19,” Booker said. “These health inequities are the direct result of centuries of racist policy that have disenfranchised, disinvested and disrespected Black, Indigenous and other communities of color. Declaring racism a public health crisis is a small, but necessary, step toward addressing the deep-rooted and systemic inequities that have created and continue to exacerbate unfair and unjust health outcomes and enabling us to finally move forward in creating a truly equitable health care system for all.”

“COVID-19 has caused a public health crisis that is disproportionately impacting people of color. In fact, available data shows that African American and Latinx people are three times as likely to get sick with the virus and nearly twice as likely to die,” Harris said. “This is, in part, due to long-standing barriers to care that are rooted in generations of systemic racism. This resolution affirms Congress’ commitment to fully acknowledge and address racial inequities and injustice across all sectors.”

The resolution acknowledges the history of racism and discrimination within health care and the systemic barriers that people of color continue to face when seeking care. The resolution also highlights the effects of systemic racism on the health and wellness of communities of color, resulting in shorter life expectancy, worsened health outcomes and enhanced exposure to harmful or dangerous environments. This resolution encourages concrete action to address health disparities and inequity across all sectors in society.