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Ohio lawmakers revive efforts to declare racism a public health crisis

Sen. Craig also reintroduced an effort Tuesday to declare Juneteenth a paid holiday in the state.
 Captured by Elise Hannah
Captured by Elise Hannah (WTVG)
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 5:01 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVG) - Two Ohio lawmakers are reviving their efforts to declare racism a public health crisis in the state. State Senators Hearcel F. Craig (D-Columbus) and Sandra R. Williams (D-Cleveland) introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 on Tuesday, a bill that would make the declaration. According to the American Public Health Association, 25 cities and counties across the state have made similar declarations. Neither Toledo nor Lucas County are included on the list.

“While Ohioans may not be currently engaging in protesting at the levels we saw last summer, we know that racism didn’t just go away,” Craig said. “Black Ohioans continue to be arrested and incarcerated at alarming rates, experience wage and workforce disparities as well as maternal and infant mortality and get diagnosed with long-term health conditions like diabetes at higher rates than white Ohioans. Until we address the systemic racism embedded in these and other issues, we cannot ensure that Ohio is a safe and prosperous state for all.”

The resolution as introduced calls for a number of measures, including the creation of a glossary of terms and definitions concerning racism and health equity; educational efforts to address, dismantle, and expand the understanding of racism and how it affects health; promoting community engagement; committing to a review of all legal ordinances through the lens of racial equity; promoting policies that prioritize the health of people of color; partnering with local organizations with a track record of confronting racism; and others.

Sen. Craig also reintroduced an effort Tuesday to declare Juneteenth a paid holiday in the state. Senate Bill 78 is co-sponsored by Senator Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) and is the reintroduction of a bill from the previous General Assembly which passed the Senate but was not signed into law.

“Juneteenth was celebrated more widely across the country in 2020. By declaring it a paid state holiday, I hope this renewed awareness and celebration of Black history will continue to increase in the years to come,” Craig said. “We still have a long way to go to achieve racial justice, but this bill will help us honor those who have paved the way to where we are today.”

Juneteenth, which falls on June 19 each year, was originally established as a holiday in Texas to celebrate the day the news of the Emancipation Proclamation made it to the state, the final state in the country to learn of its signing two and a half years earlier. It is recognized as the date when all enslaved people were officially emancipated. Governors in several other states have vowed to make the date a paid holiday.

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