Racism now recognized as a public health crisis in Memphis & Shelby County

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Both Memphis and Shelby County now consider racism a public health crisis.

The Memphis City Council passed a resolution Tuesday. Shelby County Commissioners passed a similar resolution last month.

So, what does a resolution like this change when it comes to quality of life? FOX13 spoke to County Commissioner Tami Sawyer whose resolution passed last month.

RELATED: Shelby County declares racism a pandemic

“What could just be seen as nominal resolution, now you have to do something with it,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer said she is drafting new ordinances that will range from education to law enforcement, as well as demanding that the public health department, which county commission funds, pay closer attention to how to reduce illness among the black community that make COVID-19 a ruthless virus.

“It should also inform how we fund and what we fund, thinking about black maternal health, thinking about mental health in our schools,” she said.

Sawyer told FOX13 she can now focus on changing funding to solve issues that have plagued black communities for years and have caused health issues.

“From how long does it take for you get to a fresh apple, how long does it take for you to get work, or school, from transportation to health care,” she said.

Sawyer told FOX13 she has operated with the idea that racism is a crisis the entire time she has been in office.

FOX13 asked whether Sawyer would push for MLGW not to disconnect customers and for more money for the eviction fund.

RELATED: City Council Chairwoman plans to introduce resolution declaring racism a public health crisis in Memphis

“I will be pushing for more money as far as supporting people with their MLGW bills, and I will be pushing for some type of moratorium on evictions,” she said.

FOX13 emailed to ask the Shelby County Health Department how these resolutions would change its programing. We have not received a reply.

FOX13 emailed the same question to Mayor Strickland’s office prior to the council vote and we have not gotten a reply.

Memphis and Shelby county are not alone. According to an article in this month’s Pew Charitable Trust, 23 other cities or counties have passed similar resolutions.