On Monday, July 27, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist held a virtual stakeholder meeting to discuss issues affecting the African-American community and the Task Force on Racial Disparities.
They were joined by task force committee members State Senator Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit), Beverly Walker-Griffea (President of Mott Community College), Joe Jones (President of Grand Rapids Urban League) and Isaiah Oliver (President and CEO Community Foundation of Greater Flint).
Gov. Whitmer’s racial disparity task force was created in response to the adverse effects of COVID-19 on African Americans.
The task force is chaired by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Michigan’s first African-American lieutenant governor. It is made up of leaders from across state government and health care professionals from communities most affected by the virus.
As Michigan’s first black Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist has made it clear that he is committed to bringing the issues of African Americans to the forefront declaring, “Our administration is trying to do more than our predecessors have ever done when it comes to working to ensure that every community and black person in this state feels like the law enforcement professionals who serve them are truly on their team and on their side. So that requires reimagining how public safety services are delivered and how our communities are invested in.”
The meeting comes when the tension from years of systemic racism is at a fever pitch. “We have residents who are hurting; they are fearful, angry, and tired of the injustices that they face,” said Beverly Walker-Griffea, President of Mott Community College. “And the stress that they’re facing is culminating into serious mental and physical health concerns, and those are all products of systemic racism. This is the moment to get it right and to make change,” she continued.
Committee members expressed the need to ensure that black and brown citizens are heard, seen, and represented. They are also taking a look at improving the social determinants of health in the Black community. Social determinants are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. They include factors like socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood, physical environment, employment, social support networks, and access to health care.
“We are working to address Healthcare disparities, racial disparities, education disparities, workforce’s disparities, and criminal justice reform,” said State Senator Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit). “These issues are directly impacting our community with lasting devastating repercussion, so it’s important that we are working together as a coalition to get change things.”
Gov. Whitmer outlined her plan, saying that her administration has been working hard to ensure that all Michiganders have a path to success. “We know that real and robust change comes when we fund public schools and communities of color in addition to healthcare, affordable housing, and public transportation.”
The governor went on to say that there is much work to be done to ensure that Michigan is a just and equitable state. She also touched on her plan to reform policing in the state. Whitmer mentioned her four-part plan, which focuses on the areas of policy, personnel, partnership, and prevention and was created with the input of community leaders and law enforcement organizations.
All Michiganders, no matter their community or the color of their skin, deserve equal treatment under the law,” Governor Whitmer said. “This proposal will help us ensure that law enforcement officials treat all Michiganders with humanity and respect, and will help us keep our communities safe.”
Gilchrist wrapped up the meeting, saying that the Whitmer administration “will work to make sure that racial equity is at the center of how we make choices, how we make decisions and design policy.” The work done through the Racial Disparity Task Force will lay the foundation for a greater impact beyond the pandemic response. “Through the task force, we have started assessing the social determinants of health which our administration is committed to improving in order to build racial equity,” said Gilchrist. “We will keep this work going as its going to bring more opportunity and the chance for opportunity because people are healthier and have a more solid foundation as a result of this work.”