Two Tennessee Cities Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis

Memphis Mayor, Jim Strickland

By Vivian Jones – The Center Square

City councils in Chattanooga and Memphis have passed resolutions declaring racism a public health crisis. The Nashville Metro Council office confirmed Wednesday that no similar resolution has been filed with the Nashville Metro clerk.

The Memphis resolution was brought by City Council Chairwoman Patrice Robinson. While the resolution expresses commitment to enacting policies that eradicate the effects of systemic racism, no policies specifically are outlined in the resolution.

“Today, many decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Black Americans continue to endure unfair treatment and violence resulting from police brutality with the death of George Floyd and countless other Black men and women illustrating that Black Americans are treated as second-class citizens by certain segments of the population,” the Memphis resolution reads.

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners passed a similar resolution on June 23.

The Chattanooga resolution highlights an anti-racism reform agenda, including recommendations for police reform, and it reiterates a proposal to form an Office of Community Resilience within the Office of the Mayor.

“The members of the Chattanooga City Council recognize racism is real,” the Chattanooga resolution reads. “As a community, we must work together to promote equity and eradicate racism. Moreover, this Council believes NOW is the time to declare racism a public health crisis.”

Neither the Hamilton County Health Department nor the Shelby County Health Department was able to be reached for clarification on what changes if any, such a resolution might bring to health department programming.

“This resolution is a start of a continued conversation, a conversation that’s very hard for us to have, but it’s needed,” Chattanooga City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod said. “No, it will not fix the hearts of people, that’s something that they will have to work hard at. But, I’m very hopeful that our council will continue to advocate for the changes that are continuously affecting Black, brown and poor white people.”