County of San Bernardino declares racism a public health crisis

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Photos Maha Rizvi
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On June 9, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors declared racism a public health crisis during its regular meeting.

“Today we are directing staff to prepare a resolution acknowledging that racism is a public health crisis, which results in societal concerns and may result in measurable detriments to persons and communities of color in the delivery of and access to wellness, economic development and opportunity, public safety, housing, and education,” said Leonard Hernandez, County Chief Operating Officer.

Jody Isenburg declaring racism a public health crisis, while reminding County Board of Supervisors that voices of people of color need to be heard on the Countywide Vision Equity Element Group.

In addition to Hernandez’s direction, the County will also be adding language to the federal and state legislative platforms stating that the county supports the promotion of equity and social justice, establishing “equity” as an 11th vision element in the “Countywide Vision” with the San Bernardino County Council of Governments, and establish a Countywide Vision Equity Element Group.

“We know that change is a constant element of life, we recognized that as we were putting together the Countywide Vision. Throughout the community meetings that were held, residents had the opportunity to attend and provide input regarding their desires and vision. I believe that we have an opportunity to revisit the elements in order for us to incorporate and include the necessary changes that need to take place because of the awareness and interest. We need to open the doors and listen, to make change,” said 5th District Supervisor Josie Gonzales.

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During discussion, Gonzales also shared that she recently had a constructive conversation with  San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, regarding the forthcoming equity element group.

“McMahon and I discussed him bringing his department, police departments from non-contracted cities, public defenders, district attorneys, probation, and possibly the fire department to make sure we are prepared with the correct organizations to begin the discussion with the community and agencies form across the county as part of the Countywide Vision Equity Element Group,” concluded Gonzales.

Many of the county supervisors and county staff, if not all, spoke highly in regard to the change and success the vision groups have brought forth to the county in the past.

“I’ve seen the amazing work the countywide vision element groups have accomplished. They were originally established to facilitate and generate community dialogue. I can’t think of a more effective way to discuss elements of equity with the community. Once the element group is created, a series of meetings can be generated to solicit input. The element group will listen and strategize how to generate change in the community,” said San Bernardino County Deputy Executive Officer Diana Alexander.

During the 1.5 hour-long discussion, about 35 public comments were made.

“We are here to voice our support to declare that racism is a public health crisis in the County of San Bernardino. Thank you for bringing this item forward. My department and I stand before you with many years of county leadership, hard work and many decades of service. We have sons, daughters, grandchildren, wives and husbands…and everyday I pray for their safety and their lives. We too pledge to work with you and the community to generate equity for all; to create ongoing sustainable change. For too long our truth and stories have gone unheard, until now,” said Trenta Borne, public speaker and county employee.

The public speakers were inclusive to a range of constituents including county employees, educators, activists and college students.

“For too long have we concealed the naked truth behind the atrocities that have taken place for centuries, for too long have we utilized bandaid solutions to cover the infected wounds inflicted on our people at the hands of racism. This trauma penetrates deeper than the scars on our ancestors’ backs,” said public speaker Darrell Jones.

“My mom holds her breath every time I walk out the door. It doesn’t matter that I have two college degrees or that I work in education, it doesn’t matter that I have a clean record and make an honest living…none of my accomplishments or good deeds hold enough value for my life to be spared; as if being human isn’t a good enough reason alone,” concluded Jones.

Another speaker and county employee, Paulette Morris, stressed getting rid of the few bad sheriffs in the county by letting go of those who have accumulated more than five write-ups; and sharing that if the supervisors need direction, many county employees and the community have names of individuals who shouldn’t be working as officers.

For more information, visit http://www.sbcounty.gov.

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