Louisville Mayor Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
Photo: Jon Cherry (Getty Images)

Since Breonna Taylor’s death, Louisville has become one of the focal points in the nation’s ongoing reckoning with its internalized racism, and as a result, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has declared racism a public health crisis.


WLKY reports that Fischer signed the executive order on Tuesday, which comes following months of consistent protests in the city. The protests started in March after Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her own home by Louisville Metro Police officers. In the time since, the city fired its police chief and a new oversight board has been formed to handle instances of police misconduct, but justice has still not been served for Taylor.

With this latest move, Louisville joins places like Minneapolis and the state of Pennsylvania in declaring racism a public health crisis.

“For too many Louisvilians racism is a fact of daily life, a fact that was created and documented in our country’s laws and institutional policies like segregation, redlining and urban renewal,” Fischer said at a news conference.

The executive order isn’t just a series of fancy words condemning racism; the city has established the Advancing Racial Equity plan. The plan has a list of targeted goals and actions meant to address racial equity in areas of public safety, childcare, unemployment, and housing.

The plan also outlines a series of reforms for the Louisville Metro Police Department, with community policing, an extensive independent review of LMPD’s culture and practices, and “budget reallocation” being listed among the action items.

Fischer told reporters that the goals listed in the plan were reflective of the issues presented by community leaders such as the Louisville Urban League, which submitted a petition to the mayor and Louisville Metro Council over the summer that listed the most pressing issues facing Louisville’s Black community.


Fischer told reporters that while advancing racial equity has been a consistent goal of the Louisville Metro government for the last decade, “it’s clear that we need to move faster and invest more resources. We need to do everything we can to repair distrust through action.”

Shameka Parrish-Wright, head of the Louisville chapter of the Bail Project, told WLKY that she hopes the mayor is serious when it comes to taking action. “I hope...the action steps of this plan really comes down and trickles down to the ground. Because on the ground, we have seen homelessness, jobless, people who are not connected to benefits, people who need mental health care,” she told WLKY.


While Parrish-Wright believes the mayor probably should’ve done this already, she’s happy to see progress being made. Ultimately, Wright feels that true racial progress can’t be achieved in Louisville until Breonna Taylor is finally given justice.

“To me, a really good start of letting your city know that you’re ready to heal is firing those officers, because the community does not feel supported,” she told the news outlet. “They don’t trust them and how can we move forward if we don’t deal with that first?”

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Brick HardMeat

Racism as a public health crisis is an issue that impacts the community as a whole.

Beyond the obvious (black and brown people being murdered by the police, not having equitable access to health care, being disproportionately impacted by the negative health impacts of poverty and pollution, etc, are all bad things) and the moral (eliminating racism is the right thing to do) there are tangible self serving public health reasons for white people to want to eradicate racism.

A community is only as healthy as its weakest link. If some disease or illness is left to fester in a marginalized community, it will eventually spread to harm the community as a whole. HIV/AIDS is a great example - no one gave a shit about it when it was just “gay cancer”. But once it crossed over, suddenly it was everyone’s problem. We’ve seen similar narratives play out with polio (Italian immigrants), small pox (Chinese immigrants), and cholera (Chinese immigrants again). Ironically, these communities weren’t even really the source of the diseases anyway. And from a nontraditional public health perspective, we can see how a “black problems” like drug use suddenly becomes a national concern when that drug is opioids instead of crack and the victims are poor rural whites instead of poor urban blacks.

I guess what I’m saying is, if the CDC had to change tact in its pitch to get folks to wear masks from a case that it protects others to a case that it protects the wearer, there’s a similar case that eradicating racism protects the health of the community as a whole, not just marginalized groups.