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City of Green Bay officially declares racism as public health crisis

15 other local organizations have also signed the declaration
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 3:02 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The City of Green Bay has officially declared racism as a public health crisis.

Mayor Eric Genrich, along with 15 other local leaders, signed the declaration Wednesday, created by Wello, a well-being non-profit network.

“Today, we are joined by leaders throughout Greater Green Bay as we collectively declare racism as a public health crisis, recognizing the harm it has caused generations of people of color,” said Natalie Bomstad, Executive Director at Wello in Green Bay. “In Brown County, white citizens live on average 16 years longer than black citizens and 18 years longer than our Hispanic citizens.”

The CEO of the YWCA of Greater Green Bay, Renita Robinson, was one of the first to put pen to paper, signing the declaration and committing to taking urgent action against racism.

“Our voice is louder when we talk and speak about issues like this together,” said Robinson.

Robinson said this declaration is a huge part of the YWCA’s mission.

“Our mission is the dedication to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all and so this proclamation is like the cornerstone of the work we are doing at YWCA.”

The declaration may seem like a small first step, but Robinson said it’s a necessary first step in promoting change.

“On the continuum of change we ground our implicit bias work and social justice work in, the first stage is denial. Well this actually shatters the whole ideal that this isn’t a thing. So we are basically saying ‘It’s a real thing, please pay attention and then be part of the solution’,” said Robinson.

Robinson said the solution will come when facts are no longer ignored. “At a certain point you can’t deny the facts. When you hear African Americans live 16 years less than whites or Hispanic Americans live 18 years less than whites, then you start to ask questions like why?” said Robinson. “So many of these gatherings provoke another step because people who care about humanity will go back after hearing these things and become students of the issue, that’s the exciting thing about it.”

Dr. Ashok Rai, President and CEO of Prevea Health, also signed his name on the declaration Wednesday. He said training in the state of Wisconsin, he’s seen the effects of racial disparities in healthcare since the first day he entered a hospital.

“One topic that I find very understated and needs to be brought to the forefront when it comes to racism and healthcare is truly identifying the trauma that a person of color goes through from the day they’re born in the United States to the day they die because of the color of their skin,” said Dr. Rai. “The mental abuse that happens at a very young age carries forward to adulthood and creates mental health issues from anxiety to depression, and sometimes even worse, all of which stem from racism and the exposure that our young children have. We need to do more than just identifying that it’s a problem. We need to identify sources and resources for treatment of the trauma created through systemic racism in our country, in our state, in our city.”

Green Bay’s City Council approved the declaration. Mayor Genrich said that’s a big ‘unifying step’ in recognizing and identifying racism as a ‘true and real and imminent public health crisis in Green Bay, in the state of Wisconsin and in this country’.

“We’ve got a lot of challenges in front of us, along the road as+ well. But this is a really important first step for this community, to speak honestly and truthfully, about racism and the impacts that it has on the lived experiences of people in greater Green Bay and Brown County,” said Mayor Genrich.

“It’s sad we have to be in this conversation, but it’s great because as we are in this conversation, people will be compelled to do something different,” said Robinson.

“We invite other organizations and we invite other individuals throughout our region to sign on to this declaration to bring light to discrimination, negative impacts on health and well-being, and to help create change,” said Bomstad.

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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