Statement: racial justice is health justice

This past weekend, the long-standing reality of deep oppression and injustice for Black communities has become front and center on the national stage. Protect Our Care Illinois stands with Black communities across the state, and lifts their efforts to demand justice so they are afforded the basic rights of existing without fear and obtaining equitable access to high quality services that ensure basic needs are met – including health care, nutrition, and housing. 

It is impossible to parse out structural racism and systemic injustice from health outcomes for Black communities. In Illinois, Black individuals account for 43% of COVID-19 related deaths while making up only 15% of the state’s population.  Also, the same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against Black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among Black Americans with COVID-19.

We also must acknowledge the white supremacy in our culture, and the exhaustion and despair that our Black colleagues who are doing this work alongside of us feel. This weekend, like much of history, we have seen continued complacency focused on detracting from the realities of brutality against Black and Brown communities by way of shifting the narrative to cover property over people, doubling down on subversive messages like all lives matter, and designating labels like “thugs” to incite racist perceptions that diminish the extraordinary pain and suffering plaguing our Black neighbors working to lift their voices so that maybe this once, they will actually be listened to. 

We join the Opportunity Agenda for #JusticeOutLoud and call for leadership and justice from district attorneys, police chiefs, and all people with power or position to say enough is enough. It is time to address once and for all the white supremacist violence proliferating in America.We cannot be quiet or passive in this moment of anger and disbelief –  remaining silent is an act of compliance in the face of grave injustice.

While we continue to navigate both the pandemic and demands for justice, we must declare beyond the shadow of a doubt,  that racial justice is health justice. We cannot call for one without demanding the other. Protect Our Care Illinois wholeheartedly and unequivocally stands with our Black neighbors and communities in pursuit of a just and equitable society. In our fight for equitable access to health care for all Illinoisans, we implore our local and state leaders to acknowledge that police brutality is a public health crisis. Our leaders must take immediate and decisive action for just reform so that our Black and Brown neighbors are afforded not only the basic right to live without fear of brutality, but so our state systems are equipped with the voices, knowledge, and tools to aggressively weed out injustice and inequity.