MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One city council member said she believes better housing, opening up new medical clinics in the inner city, and attracting new companies to offer employees health benefits can all be accomplished by voting to name racism a public health crisis in Memphis.
City Council Chairwoman Patrice Robison told FOX13 she plans to propose a resolution during Tuesday’s meeting to declare racism a pandemic.
There’s a lot of funding involved if the motion passes. It would also give the council a new yardstick to ask every city department if what they are doing is tackling the public health crisis called racism.
In a predominately black city like Memphis, racism is more than just an emotional, economic and political impediment said the City Council Chairwoman.
“An awareness in our community that racism is a public health crisis,” said Robinson. She said she wants others on the council to agree with her and pass a resolution stating it.
Should that happen, FOX13 asked the chairwoman what would happen next in terms of policy and spending in areas such as housing.
“We have to make sure that those individuals have homes that are conducive to living with mold, mildew, and germs,” she said.
Robinson said under the term ‘public health crisis’ code inspectors should investigate tenants’ complaints more aggressively and haul landlords and owners before the environmental court.
“The people who own property in our city and we don’t know who they are - we need a registry so we can contact them when we have issues that need to be addressed immediately,” Robinson said.
FOX13 asked Robinson if the resolution would have any influence on companies the city recruits. Would they be asked to provide not only livable wages but health benefits?
“The bottom line here is that our adverse social-economic conditions are contributing to our serious health issues,” she said.
Those conditions have been pushed into the spotlight during the pandemic as a disproportionate number of victims are black with underlying health issues.
Because Robinson is only pushing for a referendum, it has little enforcement except for the will of the council, if it passes.