Northeast Ohio representatives weigh in on renewed push to combat systemic racism

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – As civil unrest continues to sweep across the country in response to the death of George Floyd, there’s a renewed push in several of Ohio’s largest cities to combat systemic racism. Now the call for change has reached the state level.

A proposed resolution would declare racism a public health crisis, it would echo a similar resolution introduced in Cleveland.

“What we are unfortunately hearing from our constituents is that they don’t feel like they get that opportunity to live the american dream of you are black, if you are Hispanic, if you are Asian,” said State Representative Emilia Strong Sykes, a Democrat representing District 34. “There are inequities in our policy, inequities that we as legislators have the ability to fix if only we have the will to do so.”

State representatives from the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus met virtually Tuesday to discuss the resolution introduced. 

A spokesperson for the Ohio House speaker, a Republican, says he “plans on discussing with the governor and senate.”

State Rep. Stephanie Howse a Democrat representing District 11, calls it a broad resolution that would examine the role state government had in creating the problem and would work to find solutions that could turn into policy.

“Ask the governor to create a working group that will begin to look at the policies and practices of the state through a racial equity lens,” said Howse.

She said the resolution would be of benefit to Ohioans, similar to how legislative work led to additional resources to study infant mortality in Cuyahoga County through First Year Cleveland.

“That infant mortality hub became a reality through the work of the legislature back in 2015 when they allocated the dollars so infant mortality hubs could be created,” Howse said.

The resolution citing the American Public Health Association states: “…Racism is a driving force of the social determinants of health due to the resulting inequalities in a number of matters, including housing, education, and employment…”

“What a wonderful story that it could be if we are seen as the leader to righting the wrongs,” said Howse.

Rep. Strong Sykes said: “It matters in the sense that we want you to be able to live, work and play, start a family, start a business and live successfully here without any additional hurdles or boundaries or barriers.”

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