By: Manny Otiko, IVN Staff Writer
San Bernardino, CA — Members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors met on Tuesday and decided to move forward on drafting a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis in the county.
The issue was first brought up at the Tuesday, June 2, meeting by several area ministers and activists.
The supervisors directed county staff to form a new element group that would work on increasing equity in the county.
The Equity Element Group will work on decreasing racial disparities in the county, according to a press release. In 2011, the Board of Supervisors created the Countywide Vision which focused on 10 different areas (element groups) of improvement. These element groups include areas such as public safety, housing and education. Racial equity will be the 11th element group.
“Element groups working to achieve the Countywide Vision have produced tangible results for the county community. They include the Vision2Read literacy campaign; the Vision2BActive wellness campaign; the Vision4Safety public safety campaign; and the Vision2Succeed campaign created by the jobs and economy element group,” according to a press release.
“This is a beginning platform to start these dialogues and work together,” said Board Chairman Curt Hagman, in a press release. “I am excited to work with our community to address these issues going forward.”
Supervisor Josie Gonzales added, “I believe we have an opportunity to revisit the element in order for us to incorporate the changes that need to take place.”
Several members of the public also addressed this issue during the public comments section.
Pastor Sam Casey of New Life Christian Church in Fontana, who was involved in initially motivating the resolution last week, commended the board members, but urged them to take the issue seriously.
“Please don’t patronize us,” he said.
Several of the people who made public comments also talked about others who were affected by racism. One of them was Dr. Ayanna Balogun, who is principal of Charlotte N. Werner Elementary School in Rialto. Balogun warned of the dangers of the School-to-Prison pipeline, the system where black students are criminalized in the school system and then funneled into the criminal justice system.
She said she has witnessed this. Balogun had seen this through unequal discipline in the school system. She pointed out that African Americans make up about 15 percent of the population but account for 40 percent of children who are suspended. Balogun added that African-American students are often not recommended for AP classes that can prepare them for college.
Some of the people who spoke during the open comments section also talked about problems with police brutality in Big Bear and urged board members to act.
There was also support from other groups allied with this mission. Jody Eisenberg of the League of Women Voters urged board members to sign the resolution.
“The League of Women Voters sees this as an issue,” she said. “We urge you not to take this lightly.”
Mahogany Allen also urged the board members to move forward with the resolution. She is a psychology student at San Diego State University and works for the BLU Education Foundation at California State University-San Bernardino. She talked about how the stress of racism can have a detrimental effect on black people’s health.
After scrolling through some of the headlines on her phone one night, she had an anxiety attack.
“It is physically and mentally draining,” she said.
Allen also pointed out that society needed to move forward with racial justice. She said the Rodney King riots were 30 years ago.
“I and my peers are now 20 years old,” said Allen.