Commentary: Racism is a public health crisis

Racism IS a public health crisis. This is a fact supported by 15 months of research by Fairfield’s Racial Equity and Justice Task Force (REJTF). Sadly, not a single Republican member of the RTM agrees, as evidenced by their 17 “no” votes to support a resolution declaring as much.

When the task force was convened by Fairfield’s first selectwoman in September 2020, she asked them to study racial and ethnic inequalities in town and to propose the means to eliminate them. The final report, which is data-driven and reflects best practices, makes three major recommendations.

The first is to issue a formal proclamation that acknowledges the existence of systems that disadvantage Black, indigenous and people of color residents and commits to addressing racial equity and justice in town governance and operations. To solve a problem, we must start by naming it.

Eighteen towns in Connecticut have already passed similar resolutions. The state did so in June 2021.

Since January when the report was first presented, our first selectwoman has made no move to issue such a proclamation. Given her lack of action, the Democrats on the RTM proposed a “sense of the body” resolution of our own. We hoped that we would forge a bipartisan consensus.

We were humbled by the more than 50 emails we received from Fairfield residents in favor. Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues were unmoved by this public response. The amendment they proposed included several unrelated forms of discrimination, did not address systems, and diluted the focus on the very specific work of the task force.

In the end, the resolution did not achieve the two-thirds majority needed to pass. All 22 Democratic RTM members present at the meeting voted in favor. All 17 Republicans voted it down.

The Democratic Caucus of the RTM will not give up the fight. One in five Fairfield residents identifies as non-white. Let your neighbors of color know that you hear them, respect their lived experiences, and lift them up. Most importantly, continue to make your voices heard. Hold your elected leaders accountable.