Los Angeles City Council President Emeritus Herb Wesson (Brandon I. Brooks/L.A. Sentinel)
The Los Angeles City Council has voted to approve a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis in the city. The resolution, put forward by Councilmembers Herb Wesson, Curren Price, and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, also calls on City of Los Angeles departments to review their internal policies and procedures to ensure that racial justice is a core element of city government.

“The health disparities that we’re seeing by race is a result of our long history of systemic racism in this country,” said Wesson. “The question now becomes what we are going to do to change these systems for future generations.”

This move builds on Wesson’s track record of meaningful action related to racial justice reform in local government and the city generally. In the last several years, he has been instrumental in the creation of the City of Los Angeles Department of Civil and Human Rights, in addition to authoring the motion to establish an Office of Racial Equity in the city.

According to Wesson’s original motion, across LA County, a third of black households experience severe rent burdens. In South LA, the share of black households experiencing severe rent burden is about 50 percent. And while African Americans make up approximately 8 percent of the overall county population, they make up 29 percent of LA County’s jail population, and 42 percent of the homeless population.

“These numbers are not a mistake,” said Wesson. “This is the system that has been designed since our country’s founding – a system built on white supremacy. The time is long overdue for a correction.”

Specifically, the resolution identifies 10 core actions the City of Los Angeles should undertake to address this public health crisis:

  1. Assert that racism is a public health crisis affecting our entire city.
  2. Conduct an assessment of internal City policy and procedures, starting with the annual budget process, to ensure racial justice is a core element of city government, led by the Council with assistance from the Human Relations Commission.
  3. Work to progress as an equity and justice-oriented organization, to identify specific activities to further enhance diversity and to ensure antiracism principles across City government.
  4. Promote equity through all policies and enhance educational efforts aimed at understanding, addressing and dismantling racism and how it affects delivery of human and social services, economic development and public safety.
  5. Continue to advocate locally for relevant policies that improve health in communities of color, and supports local, state, regional, and federal initiatives that advance efforts to dismantle systemic racism.
  6. Further work to solidify alliances and partnerships with other organizations that are confronting racism and encourage other local, state, regional and national entities to recognize racism as a public health crisis.
  7. Support community efforts to amplify issues of racism and engage actively and authentically with communities of color wherever they live.
  8. Always promote and support policies that prioritize the health of all people, especially people of color by mitigating exposure to adverse childhood experiences.
  9. Encourage racial equity training among all community partners, grantees, vendors and contractors.
  10. Identify clear goals and objectives, including periodic reports to assess progress and capitalize on opportunities to further advance racial equity.
A copy of the original motion can be found here.