Disparities In Employment, Education, Incarceration: Racism Declared Public Health Crisis in Milwaukee County

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele signed a resolution on Monday declaring racism and discrimination a public health crisis in the area.

“Everybody has been reading and hearing about the same set of statistics in Milwaukee for decades,” Abele said. “We lead in an unfortunate way the racial disparities in employment, in education, incarceration, income and even things like … access to capital.”

County supervisors Marcelia Nicholson and Supreme Moore Omokunde and Milwaukee County Office on African-American Affairs Director Nicole Brookshire joined Abele at the signing of the resolution.

Brookshire said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that racism in the county is impacting students of color, high death rates, infant mortality, lack of prenatal care and housing segregation.

For example, a study in southeastern Wisconsin in 2017 found that Black women had poorer colorectal cancer survival rates in neighborhoods that have racial bias in mortgage lending and institutional racism.

The county in Wisconsin is planning a series of measures to back up the declaration and make sure everyone is on equal footing in the area. According to local media, the county will:

  • Assess internal policies and procedures to make sure racial equity is a core element of the county.
  • Work to create an inclusive organization and identify specific activities to increase diversity.
  • Incorporate inclusion and equity and offer educational training to expand employees’ understanding of how racism affects people.
  • Advocate for policies that improve health in communities of color.
  • Encourage other local, state and national entities to recognize racism as a public health crisis.
  • Last fall, the Office on African American Affairs launched racial equity training to more than 150 leaders and it will be expanding training to all of the staff this summer.

Milwaukee County is 60 percent white, 26 percent Black and 13 percent of the population were Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2010 census.

Hate crimes in the state of Wisconsin are on the rise for both people of color and Jewish people. According to an annual audit by the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, anti-Semitic incidents have increased over the past 5 years. The 2018 audit showed there has been an almost 21 percent increase incidents from 2018 and a 166 percent increase in vandalism.

Wisconsin is also home to the tragic 2012 mass shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek. A shooter took the lives of six people and wounded four others.

Wisconsin religious hate crimes also more than doubled in 2017, according to the FBI. Religious hate crime accounted for about 37 percent of incidents in the state in 2017. Almost every year before 2017, the majority of hate crimes in Wisconsin were motivated by racial bias.

Hate crimes motivated by racial bias accounted for about 33 percent in 2017, hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation accounted for about 28 percent and hate crimes motivated by disability accounted for about 2 percent.

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