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Declaration of Racism as a Public Health Crisis

Below are the letter and declaration to be considered at the July 13th meeting of the New Providence Borough Council.  The letter and declaration will be considered during the correspondence portion of the meeting and will be open for comments during the public comments portion of the meeting.

July 3, 2020

Borough of New Providence

Mayor and Borough Council Members

360 Elkwood Avenue

New Providence, NJ 07974

Dear Mayor Morgan and Members of the Council,

I am re-submitting the declaration I asked you to consider at the June 22, 2020 meeting of the Borough Council.  I am doing this for a number of reasons.  First, there was no recognition that the request was made other than mention of it as correspondence.  Second, there was no discussion of any plans to address the underlying issues which prompted the submission of the request.  Third, I have made some alterations in the original declaration which remove expression of support for the declaration to other governing bodies.  Fourth, I have added a request that the New Providence Diversity Committee consider recommendations and programs which would support the intent of the declaration.

As I expressed at the meeting on June 22nd, I was disappointed that there was no discussion whatsoever about the request in the context of the recent events across our nation.  I would hope that with the revisions I have mentioned, you would accept the declaration as input from a citizen of New Providence and provide some feedback regarding your assessment of that input.

As always, I appreciate your service to the community and look forward to your comments and suggestions regarding the request I have presented.

Allen Swanson

 

DECLARATION OF RACISM AS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS

WHEREAS, New Providence Borough Council has a demonstrated commitment to promoting racial equity, inclusion and diversity in all aspects of life and government in New Providence. and

WHEREAS, racism is a root cause of poverty and constricted economic mobility; and

WHEREAS, race is a social construct with no biological basis: and

WHEREAS, racism is a social system with multiple dimensions: individual racism that is internalized or interpersonal; systemic racism that is institutional or structural, and is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks: and

WHEREAS, racism unfairly disadvantages specific individuals and communities, while unfairly giving advantages to other individuals and communities. The Borough of New Providence collective prosperity depends upon the equitable access to opportunity for every resident regardless of the color of their skin; and

WHEREAS, racism causes persistent discrimination and disparate outcomes in many areas of life, including housing, education, employment and criminal justice. An emerging body of research demonstrates that racism itself is a social determinant of health; and

WHEREAS, African American residents experience higher unemployment rates, face a higher poverty rate as a community, have lower home ownership rates, are more likely to live in neighborhoods with low performing schools and experience disproportionately higher incarceration rates; and

WHEREAS, the Borough Council of New Providence acknowledges that communities of color have borne the burdens of inequitable social, environmental, economic, and criminal justice policies practices and investments, to understand that the legacy of these inequitable policies has caused deep disparities, harm, and mistrust, and to recognize that racial equity is realized when and only when race can no longer be used to predict life outcomes; and

WHEREAS, racism and segregation have also exacerbated a health divide resulting in Black residents having lower life expectancies; being far more likely than other races to die prematurely (before the age of 75); and to die of heart disease or stroke. Black residents also have higher levels of infant mortality, lower birth weights, are more likely to be overweight or obese, have adult diabetes, and have long-term complications from diabetes; and

WHEREAS, communities of color, working class residents, and those that suffer from disabilities, are more likely to experience poor health outcomes because of health inequities stemming from economic stability, education, physical environment, food and access to health care systems; and

WHEREAS, a contemporary example of such disparity is highlighted by COVID- 19 data in the State of New Jersey that African Americans are dying at a disproportionately higher rate from the disease; and

WHEREAS, the World Health Organization defines “public health’ as “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society” and those efforts “aim to provide conditions under which people can… be healthy, improve their health and well-being, or prevent the deterioration of their health;’ and

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE BOROUGH COUNCIL OF NEW PROVIDENCE:

1. Asserts that racism is a public health crisis affecting our entire Country.

2. Promotes educational efforts aimed at understanding, addressing and dismantling racism and how it affects the delivery of human and social services,economic development and public safety.

3. Supports policies that improve health in communities of color, and supports local, state, regional, and federal initiatives that advance efforts to dismantle systemic racism.

4. Will work with organizations in the community that are confronting racism and encourage other local, state, regional and national entities to recognize racism as a public health crisis.

5. Supports community efforts to amplify issues of racism and engage actively and authentically with communities of color wherever they live.

6. Will work to identify clear goals and objectives to assess progress and capitalize o opportunities to further advance racial equity; and

FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Borough Council of New Providence request that the Diversity Committee of New Providence develop appropriate recommendations and programs to address the intent of this declaration