“My parents, like so many others of their generation and other generations were indoctrinated to believe that they could never, ever be able to reach for and accomplish their dreams. This was and still is the case for far too many Black residents and residents of color in our city, and ladies and gentlemen, it is literally killing us here in Chicago,” she said. Lightfoot, the city’s first Black woman mayor and first openly lesbian mayor, noted her parents grew up in the segregated Deep South, and both had dreams that were never realized, largely due to racist attitudes in the 1920s. She said her mother wanted to be a nurse, and her father wanted to be a lawyer. The mayor said, over the past 15 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored racial health disparities in Chicago.
In declaring racism to be a public health crisis, Lightfoot joined several other cities around the nation that have made similar proclamations. The mayor made her announcement in the North Lawndale neighborhood, near the site of where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family lived for six months in 1966, joining a campaign against racist housing policies.
“When we think about racism, many of us think about it in visible and audible forms, but the reality is the insidious nature of systemic racism has other impacts that are every bit as deep and harmful, but often ones that we can’t see, like the impacts on the psyche and other impacts on our bodies that are just as, if not more deadly,” Lightfoot said. READ MORE: Chicago Weather: More Storms Possible This Weekend
A recent report by the Chicago Department of Public Health revealed the life expectancy rate among Black Chicagoans is 9.2 years shorter than non-Black residents. Lightfoot said that gap has only increased over the past decade. “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.” According to Lightfoot, COVID-19 death rates among Black residents are more than double those of White residents, and the Latinx death rate exceeds the White death rate by 76%.
READ MORE: Boards Used To Protect Businesses During Last Summer’s Unrest Now Painted And On Display At DuSable Museum Of African American History “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 said.
The News Highlights
- Mayor Lori Lightfoot declares racism a public health crisis in Chicago; ‘It’s Literally Killing Us’ – Chicago News
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