New York declares racism a ‘public health crisis’

Among a number of new bills pushed by Governor Kathy Hochul is a new law declaring racism a public health crisis in the state.

New York declares racism a ‘public health crisis’
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
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New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation that went into effect over the weekend, declaring racism a “public health crisis.”

The Democrat, who took the place of disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo following his multiple sex scandals, signed a package of bills in December, addressing racial injustice and promoting racial equity in New York.

Among the slew of bills is a new law that officially declares racism a public health crisis and establishes what the Democrats are calling a “racial equity working group.” The group will operate as part of New York’s Department of Health to produce recommendations for legislative action.

In other words, the state will be using its health authorities to create social justice legislation.

“For far too long, communities of colour in New York have been held back by systemic racism and inequitable treatment,” Hochul said in a press release on Dec. 23. “I am proud to sign legislation that addresses this crisis head-on, addressing racism, expanding equity and improving access for all.”

The move was unanimously supported by state Democrats, who applauded the effort to treat racism as a public health crisis.

“Framing racism as a public health issue compels organizations and governmental agencies to address the crisis in the systemic ways that other threats to public health have been addressed,” said state Sen. Kevin Parker said in the press release. “For decades, racial inequalities have caused significant mental, physical, and financial hardships for people of colour. These inequities have impacted how they live, the resources they have access to and more importantly their quality of healthcare.”

“Declaring Racism a public health crisis is vital because racism continues to result in a lack of resources and opportunities for people in communities of colour,” echoed Assemblymember Taylor Darling. “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the African-American community intimately shows the need for this working group to specifically focus on our needs holistically. This law will establish a working group within the department of health to promote racial equity throughout the State of New York and address some of the enormous issues we are currently facing.”

“Our state is meant to be a beacon of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but without the tools to protect our marginalized communities these words carry little truth behind them,” said Assemblymember Karines Reyes. “The Hate Crimes Analysis and Review Act ensures that we collect accurate demographic data of perpetrators and victims to better protect the communities being targeted. Without data, the plight of many will remain invisible.”

A number of Asian-American lawmakers cheered on the move as a positive step to keeping a public record of Asian-American populations in the state and the violence they face.

The law expands the blanket terms “Asian-American” and “Pacific Islander” by mandating that every state agency that collects data on the ethnic origins of residents use separate categories for each of those groups, including Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Taiwanese.

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