Chair Fletcher & Vice Chair Vargas Declare Racism to be a Public Health Crisis in San Diego County


Black & Magazine Newswire

Chair Nathan Fletcher and Vice-Chair Nora Vargas want San Diego County to publicly and openly Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis. In the policy recommendation, the Board of Supervisors will consider on January 12, they are requesting the newly constituted Board pass a resolution denouncing racism and supporting operational actions to have the County address systemic racism.

“In declaring racism as a public health crisis, we are acknowledging that racism underpins the health inequities throughout the region,” said Supervisor Fletcher. “So much of the division we face as a society is the result of intentional government policies put in place to perpetuate systemic racism. The only way you address it is to come back with intentional government policies designed to dismantle the barriers of oppression and move toward equality of opportunity and access for Black and brown people. This resolution and these policies are an important step toward creating a better future for all San Diegans.”

As the public health agency for the County of San Diego, there is a responsibility to tackle racism head on and make substantive changes to County operations. The public health and racist implications of County policies extends beyond those decisions in Public Health Services to all agencies. The additional measures proposed in the Board Letter ensures the County is making decisions that are based on equity data, promote health equity and engage communities in a participatory process. The proposed policies will

  • Create a process to solicit community input to identify county policies and practices that lead to or perpetuate racial or ethnic disparity, with the goal of catalyzing change for just, safe and healthier communities,
  • Revise the statement of values, mission, vision, and strategic plan to represent equity and inclusion as a core principle of the County of San Diego and Board of Supervisors,
  • Incorporate a section titled Equity Impact Statement in the Board Letter template for all county departments to identify and determine a systematic approach with standardized guidelines to express the equity impact of recommended actions, and
  • Enhance data collection capabilities to identify racial disparities among programs and services that are meant to improve health, social, economic, educational and criminal justice circumstances, and prioritize funding proportional to need when possible.

“As our county comes together to tackle the global pandemic of COVID-19 that has disproportionately impacted communities of color, we must also collectively recognize we are facing the pandemic of systemic racism here in San Diego County, which demands our attention and requires long term change,” said Vice Chair Vargas. “In declaring racism as a public health crisis, we establish a commitment to disrupt and dismantle oppressive systems and we take the necessary steps to remove the barriers that prevent diversity, equity and inclusion. This is the true transformational change our county needs to build partnerships with communities, where our most vulnerable are prioritized, feel heard, and feel safe.”

San Diego County would not be the first government agency to make the declaration if the policy passes. The County would be one of many municipalities across the United States, and in the State of California, to take a bold stance against racism. Others include: Long Beach County, Sacramento, San Bernardino Louisville, Kentucky; Minneapolis Minnesota; the States of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Excerpts of the proposed resolution read as follows:

“…NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Supervisors of the County of San Diego asserts that racism is an urgent public health crisis affecting our entire community; and

              BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the County of San Diego commits to working to end racism and being intentional in our efforts to heal the harms that this organization has perpetuated; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the County of San Diego supports community efforts to amplify and address issues of racism and engage actively and authentically with communities of color in our county in conjunction with the Human Relations Commission; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the County of San Diego supports the creation of a County Racial Equity Action Plan and other efforts to address equity in internal policies, procedures and programs across the County enterprise; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the County of San Diego will align and build on health equity efforts within departments across all business groups; and…”

Declaring Racism is a Public Health Crisis is the latest in a series of actions Chair Fletcher has taken since 2019 to tackle issues of racism and inequality. For example, last year he established the County’s Human Relations Commission, added more resources and authority to the Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board and created an Office of Equity and Racial Justice. In 2019 he fought for the Board of Supervisors to support Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber’s use of force Assembly Bill 392.

This policy aligns with Supervisor Fletcher’s Framework for the Future of San Diego County. The Framework prioritizes communities and populations in San Diego that have been historically left behind. Through this Framework, Supervisor Fletcher is fighting for: racial justice, health equity, economic opportunity, environmental protection, community-centered criminal justice, and fundamental changes to county operations.