The Fontana City Council declared racism a public health crisis during a recent City Council meeting. It’s something that means a lot to me -- both as your mayor and as a woman of color.
Growing up Black, in Compton, I’ve seen racism my whole life -- long before the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. I also know how much we can accomplish when we work together, as a community, to address the injustice and inequities that disproportionately impact individuals and families of color.
By declaring racism a public health crisis, the City is making it clear that change begins here, and that we’re committed to addressing the persistent social, economic, educational, and environmental disparities that threaten the health and well-being of our community.
The reality is that people of color suffer disproportionately high rates of homelessness, incarceration, lower educational attainment and economic hardship. They also suffer significantly higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart failure and other chronic illnesses.
All of this has been true for generations, but the coronavirus has made matters even worse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 hospitalization rates are five times greater for African Americans and four times greater for Latinos than they are for white individuals.
“Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some members of racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or experiencing severe illness, regardless of age,” the CDC says.
Declaring racism a public health crisis isn’t enough, however. We need to act. Among the steps we’re taking as a City include:
• Through the Fontana Mayor’s Education Coalition, the City is partnering with schools, parents and the business community to close the achievement gap and prepare students for future career opportunities.
• We’re expanding our Healthy Fontana initiative and introducing a Know Your Numbers program to help residents better understand their physical well-being.
• We’ve launched the Police Chief’s Roundtable to open up discussions and improve relationships throughout our community.
Through our various City communications platforms, we’ll be offering a closer look at each of these areas and report back on the progress we’re making.
In the meantime, I want to thank you all for your support. Many of us stood together during the protests that followed Mr. Floyd’s death. The fact that we’re among the first cities of our size to declare racism a public health crisis speaks volumes about our united commitment to make a difference.
Fontana has always been a richly diverse community. Together, too, we’re a richly caring community. Remember Fontana Together Moves Fontana Forward. If you have suggestions toward this effort please email me directly at email@example.com.
(Acquanetta Warren is the mayor of Fontana.)