January, 17, 2021

San Diego County supervisors last week formally defined racism as a public health crisis, acknowledging for the first time that a broad and baked-in prejudice underpins virtually every aspect of public policy.

The unanimous declaration came days ahead of the national holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and after a majority of Democrats was elected to the county board.

Among other actions, the vote directed county officials to begin collecting data that will help them identify and respond to racial disparities in health, education, criminal justice and other staples of American society.

It was the latest advance in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back history of race-based discrimination that began even before the nation’s founding and was formally codified in the U.S. Constitution, which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person when calculating for congressional representation.

“Racism permeates our whole society,” said Darwin Fishman, who teaches African-American Studies at San Diego State University and co-founded the Racial Justice Coalition.

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