The far-left mayor of Chicago on Thursday declared racism a public health crisis in her city and announced her administration will divert over $9 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to address it.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the COVID-19 pandemic has "laid bare" racial disparities in access to health care, mental illness, and life expectancy. Speaking in the North Lawndale neighborhood, near where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived with his family for six months in 1966 during a campaign against slums, Lightfoot said systemic racism in health care is "literally killing us here in Chicago."
"At almost every point in our city's history, sadly, racism has taken a devastating toll on the health and well-being of our residents of color, and particularly those who are Black," Lightfoot said. "Without formally acknowledging this history and reality, and the continuing impact of that infamous legacy, looking at the root causes of today's challenges, we will never be able to move forward as a city and fully provide our communities with the resources that we need to live happy, vibrant, and fulfilled lives."
She said that racism has invisible forms "like the impacts on the psyche and other impacts on our bodies that are just as, if not more deadly."
"COVID laid bare a lot of disparities. When we started looking at the disproportionate impact of COVID on communities of color in particular, there's a straight line to the lack of access to safe, affordable, high-quality healthcare," she continued.
Citing statistics from a recent report by the Chicago Department of Public Health, Lightfoot pointed out that the COVID-19 death rate of black city residents is more than double that of white residents and that the death rate of Latino residents is 76% greater than that of white people. She also noted that the average life expectancy rate among black Chicagoans is 9.2 years shorter than non-black city residents.
"Those sobering statistics stem from disproportionate rates of chronic diseases born of historic disparities in medical treatment, safe spaces to exercise, access to nutritious food, the overrepresentation of Black and Latinx residents in low-wage and frontline workforces where health care benefits are non-existent in many instances, where employees often work in close proximity to each other and are less able to take paid time off when they are sick. And the list goes on and on," Lightfoot said. "We can no longer allow racism to rob our residents of the opportunity to live and lead full, happy, and healthy lives."
To combat these racial disparities, Lightfoot's administration will allocate $9.6 million in COVID-19 relief funds from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create Healthy Chicago Equity Zones, a collection of six geographic areas in the city.
Community groups located within these zones will be responsible for creating strategies to improve community wellness. According to WBBM-TV, the six organizations selected by city officials to lead the effort are:
- Phalanx Family Services in the Far South zone;
- Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation in the Near South zone;
- Swedish Covenant Hospital in the North/Central zone;
- Northwest Side Housing Center in the Northwest zone;
- Southwest Organizing Project in the Southwest zone;
- Rush University Medical Center on behalf of West Side United in the West zone.