Racism declared a public health crisis in Burlington

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Racism is now, officially, a public health emergency in Burlington. Mayor Miro Weinberger and 30 organizations around Chittenden County announced immediate actions to eliminate race-based disparities Thursday morning.

“We are trying to move from a place where folks backs are being ridden on to a place where we can ride on the shoulders of those same people,” said Mark Hughes of the Racial Justice Alliance.

Data shows that although black people only make up 1% of the state’s population, they account for 10% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Vermont. Weinberger said the virus is just one example of racial disparities in the Green Mountain State.

“Black and brown people are more exposed to the virus based on where they live, the work they do, the shortcomings in healthcare they receive, and because of the cumulative effects of enduring a lifetime of racial stressors,” Mayor Weinberger said.

Weinberger says the city will hire a director of public health equity. The announcement comes after the city council recently passed a similar resolution.

“Being black means your more likely to be locked up, passed over for a job, evicted, homeless, and all of these have mental and physical impacts,” said Zoraya Hightower of the Burlington City Council.

UVM Medical Center says it will work to hire more diverse leaders and also survey 8,000 employees about racism in the workplace. The dozens of community groups and non-profit organizations involved say they’re committed to acknowledging racist policies within their own institutions.

“We are absolutely no longer bystanders in a crisis we can solve,” said Karen Paul, of the city council.

“We pledge to listen, we pledge to be educated, to take risks, and to push our employment practices beyond their comfort zones,” said Tom Torti, president of the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce.

Sunday, Black Lives Matter will be painted on Main Street in Burlington. The community is welcome to join.

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