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OC Board of Supervisors Declares Racism A Public Health Crisis

A sign at a protest in front of L.A. City Hall reads "Racism- The Real Pandemic."
A sign at a protest in front of L.A. City Hall.
(Chava Sanchez
/
LAist)
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The Orange County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution Tuesday declaring racism and inequity a public health crisis.

The board, which has a Republican majority, joins Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, which have passed similar resolutions, along with more than 250 jurisdictions across the country.

Personal Experience

Supervisor Andrew Do, who co-sponsored the resolution along with Supervisor Doug Chaffee, has spoken often about his own experiences with racism. He said at Tuesday's meeting that when he trained for marathons while growing up in Huntington Beach, people would throw things at him.

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"I cannot tell you how many times as I was running … how many batteries were thrown at me, how many bottles, like, narrowly missed my head," he said.

During a Board of Supervisors meeting in Aug. 2021, a COVID-19 vaccination critic told Do, who has Vietnamese heritage, to "go back to Vietnam," prompting condemnation from top Republican and Democratic political leaders.

When OC Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau spoke in favor of the resolution at the meeting, someone in the audience told Chau, to "go back to China." Do spoke next.

"Really? 'Go back to China' and you think racism is dead?," Do said.

Multi-Year Rise In Hate Crimes

OC's latest report on hate crimes noted a 165% increase in 2021 compared with five years prior, with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders bearing the brunt of the crimes.

In Dec. 2021, the Board of Supervisors approved a $1 million contract with the nonprofit OC Human Relations Council to increase anti-hate efforts, including expanded access to hate crime reporting in multiple languages and enhanced support services for victims. The OC Health Care Agency recently got a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address health inequities.

County Health Officer Regina Chinsio-Kwong said in an interview that racism affects community well-being as well as people's physical and mental health.

"We already know we have a mental health crisis," she said. "We know that there's a lot of depression, anxiety, suicide in our communities. And we know that there's a lot of substance use disorder. And unfortunately, racism is just yet another trauma that can push you into that realm," Chinsio-Kwong said.

Ali Edwards, CEO of the OC Human Relations Council, applauded the resolution. "When we see leaders tell us the direction they're headed, how they value their constituents and the importance of constituent well-being, you know, that matters," Edwards said.

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Details Of OC’s Resolution

The resolution, which passed with no objections, states:

  • COVID-19 data revealed that the pandemic worsened racial and social inequities by disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islanders and other communities of color.
  • "Systemic racism causes persistent discriminatory policies in housing, education, employment, transportation, and criminal justice."
  • "The County is deeply alarmed by the recent racially motivated attacks and violence on Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islanders and other communities."

The resolution also pledges to make racial and health equity a core part of the county's work and to increase public education and awareness about systemic inequities. Read the full resolution here.

Resources

Here's how to report a hate crime in O.C.

For more resources and anti-hate tool kits:

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