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Government / WBAA

The city of Lafayette passes resolution declaring racism a public health crisis

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski speaking before the city council Monday (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

The City of Lafayette unanimously passed a resolution Monday night declaring racism a public health crisis.

The resolution highlights lower rates of health insurance coverage, higher poverty and infant mortality rates, and lower salaries among minority groups in Lafayette compared with whites.

Steve Smith is with the Lafayette Human Relations Commission, which drafted the resolution alongside the commissions of Tippecanoe County and West Lafayette. He said the resolution is modeled after a similar one out of Indianapolis.

“We used that as a blueprint for what we were doing to move this forward,” he said.

Tippecanoe County and West Lafayette are both expected to take up similar resolutions next month.

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said the city has hired a racial justice coordinator and plans to address disparities.

“I can’t tell you how that’s going to end up, I know that’s what you want me to do,” he said. “I can’t tell you for sure how that’s going to happen, but what I can tell you is we’re taking steps and we’re going to do our best to make things better.”

City Council President Perry Brown, a Black man, called the acknowledgment important.

“I firmly believe that it has an effect on your health, because if you get up each and every day and face racism on a daily basis it will grind on you,” he said.

But, Brown said, it’s only the beginning of the work that needs to be done.

“Now you have to spread that acknowledgment from the Human Relations Commission to the society at large,” he said. “At some point, we have to get people to stop this. Surprise, surprise – this doesn’t originate in the Black community. The change that has to take place is in the hearts of the white community. That’s where the change has to happen.”

The resolution outlines action steps for the city to address racism, including investing in disadvantaged neighborhoods and collecting data on racial disparities in staffing, contracting, and other extensions of city government.