Amid a national reckoning over racism and civil unrest that’s swept the country, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and declare racism a public health crisis.
Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese announced the resolutions Monday in the wake of protests demanding justice for the police killing of George Floyd and pleas from San Jose activists to defund the police. The move means lawmakers will put racial equity at the forefront of policies, boost diversity in the workforce and encourage collaborations with Black community leaders.
“The institution in this country, throughout, from education to justice system at the local, state and federal government, is fraught with systemic racism. And those of us who have worked in the field of local government have seen it day in and day out.”
Several medical groups have issued policy statements declaring racism a public health issue in the past few years. The American Medical Association sent out a statement in May showing how both the coronavirus pandemic and police violence have disproportionately impacted communities of color.
African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts in San Jose, according to FBI data. In Santa Clara County, low-income communities whose residents are predominantly Latino and African American have been hit hardest by Covid-19 cases and deaths.
The declaration, which also calls for more educational efforts, community engagement and an internal policy review, is the first step for the county in fighting systemic racism, officials said.
“I want the Black community here to know that we see them, hear them, support them and ready to learn from them. To change history, we must confront it. … We must start now.”
Representatives from the NAACP of San Jose/Silicon Valley, Roots Community Clinics, Silicon Valley De-Bug, Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet and American Muslim Voice stood in support of the resolutions, but they also vowed to hold the county accountable.
Raj Jayadev, co-founder of Silicon Valley De-Bug, said:
“Now we have a moment to say this is not the time for symbolic gestures; it’s about actual policy changes that will lead to freedom and the survival of Black people. As much as I respect the leadership of the supervisors here, we are going to hold them to the fire.”
Milpitas High School senior Karrington Kenney, who called out a white teacher for wearing blackface last year, called for more action to address inequality and racism in education and the school-to-prison pipeline.
“(The declaration) is not enough. We need to be straight forward. This has been a lasting problem, and it is ending now.”
Kenney said the curriculum in school often glosses over brutality that Black adults and children have faced from slavery, mass incarceration and police brutality the last 400 years.
“This is how we created ignorant adults who think nothing more of their people as heroes instead of colonizing looting murderers. Stop claiming that you stand with us; I want you to stand for us and defund the police.”
“We do not want fake allyship. Either you announce the crisis tomorrow and promise to make change, or don’t do it at all.”
The board will also consider recommendations on the sheriff’s policies on use of force Tuesday.
This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight.