Shelby County declares racism a pandemic

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Racism is now considered a pandemic in Shelby County. Commissioners approved the resolution Monday evening.

Commissioners said they are committed to supporting policies that defend minorities.

In the resolution, Shelby County Commissioners pledged to eradicate the effects of systemic racism affecting black people and other minorities in the community.

The resolution cites studies that suggest experiences of racism or discrimination raise the risk of emotional and physical health problems, including depression, hypertension.

Before the vote, Commissioner Amber Mills expressed some concerns that a resolution of this kind may impact business recruitment.

“I’m wondering if businesses are considering whether to go to Memphis or Dallas, and they look up and see their local government has considered greater racism a pandemic, I wouldn’t want to take my business there if I had a choice and it concerns me we’ll be out of lost jobs and tax revenue,” said Mills.

But Commission Tami Sawyer said several medical associations have deemed racism as a pandemic.

“It doesn’t drive the business away,” Sawyer said. “This is a way to name something we already know is true and we’re working toward reducing and solving every day. What it does allow us to do is to be creative and innovative in addressing the racism that exists in our policies and actions.”

Additionally, the commission approved resolutions making Juneteenth a paid county holiday starting next year and adopting the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign.

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