The Minneapolis City Council declared racism a public health emergency in the city Friday, vowing to allocate funding and other resources to “name, reverse, and repair the harm done” to people of color in the city.
The resolution was unanimously approved nearly two months after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by Minneapolis police while in custody in south Minneapolis. Days after his death, Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins called on the council to define racism as a public health crisis.
During a committee meeting last week, Jenkins said Floyd’s killing, Black people’s vulnerability to the coronavirus and racial gaps in homeownership are issues that have “been deeply agreed upon that at the core is racism.”
“How do we begin to address and end racism?” Jenkins asked. “I think the first step in that process is through naming that as an issue.”
The resolution, sponsored by Jenkins and Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, listed multiple ways the city would work to reduce the impact of racism on its residents.
Its racial advisory committee would review the city charter and other policies. It would “establish a long-term sustainable source” of funding to increase developmental programming for youth of color.
It would also put together an annual report detailing the health of residents of color.
The resolution included recommended reforms to criminal justice and public safety, such as arresting people only for violent “and other major” crimes and dismissing cash bail.
It also directed future funding toward small businesses and housing to make land more affordable and “reverse and repair the harm experienced” by residents of color.
“Systemic racism is among the greatest long-term threats our city and nation are facing, and the last two months have made that reality painfully clear,” Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement. “For Minneapolis to be a place where everyone can live and thrive, we must recognize this crisis for what it is and approach policymaking with the urgency it deserves.”
Disparities between white and Black residents in Minnesota are stark, according to a 2019 Star Tribune analysis of U.S. census data.
Black people in the state have higher rates of poverty and unemployment and lower rates of homeownership.
About 60% of use-of-force incidents by Minneapolis police since 2008 were against Black people, even though they only make up about 20% of the city, a Star Tribune analysis found. State data have shown that Black residents and other people of color run disproportionate risks related to the coronavirus, including death and hospitalization.
“We have to specifically name racism if we are ever going to move from standing in awe of the consequences of racial disparities to actually conquering and eliminating them,” Cunningham said last week.
The city’s declaration Friday came on the heels of a similar resolution enacted by a divided Hennepin County Board late last month.
That resolution, sponsored by Commissioners Angela Conley and Irene Fernando, included several directives to reduce racial disparities in housing, health care, education and other sectors.