‘Everybody’s safety is at risk here’: La Crosse leaders reinforce racism as public health crisis

La Crosse County board supervisor pushing for unanimous vote in favor of declaring racism a public health crisis in county
Racism Declaration

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – A La Crosse County board supervisor wants to send a message to community members about racism. He said he’s hopeful the county’s board will unanimously approve a resolution making racism an official public health crisis.

The events of the past year revealed a large problem in the eyes of La Crosse County Board supervisor Rick Cornforth.

“Racism and systemic racism – it impacts all of us,” Cornforth said.

Diana DiazGranados, who is part of the Creating a Healthier Multicultural Community Project, helped show the disparities minority populations face in La Crosse County. There’s a clear inequity in the number of children of color who experience poverty compared to white children.

Poverty2

“The root causes of that are embedded in a system that has allowed that to continue,” DiazGranados said.

Data on who received the COVID-19 vaccine revealed inequities as well.

Covid 19

“It’s definitely a spotlight on the current and historical health outcomes in minorities,” Cornforth said.

The La Crosse County Health and Human Services board declared racism as a public health crisis last Tuesday.

“I think that will send a message to all of constituents and residents in La Crosse County that we’re all in this together,” Cornforth said.

These leaders agree this racism can come from any person.

“Not only white people bring those inherited biases to the table,” Cornforth said. “They come from every direction and every culture.”

Diazgranados said changes to policies can offer minorities the same chances to achieve healthy and sustainable lives.

“That thought that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but if for 400 years you didn’t have any boots, how are you going to pull yourself up?” DiazGranados said.

Cornforth said the safety of law enforcement and La Crosse’s neighborhoods are at stake too.

“Everybody’s safety is at risk here,” he said.

The hope is this will result in more than just more words.

“The last thing I want to happen is for this to be a piece of paper,” Cornforth said.

DiazGranados said it will take effort by community members and time to heal these wounds.

“We need to all be part of fixing and dismantling racism,” DiazGranados said.

The resolution goes before the full county board next Tuesday.

Resources about race and inequities in the La Crosse area

County health rankings by race

Enduring families project

Creating a Healthier Multicultural Community Project