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  • Writer's pictureWisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action

Black Health Matters: Our Statement Demanding Justice

Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action (WHPCA) joins our fellow medical, nursing, public health, environmental, and social justice organizations in strongly condemning the continuing systemic racism in our state and our country. WHPCA was created to advocate for equitable climate solutions and our dedication to climate justice could not be more important as we continue to see the horrific loss of life resulting from the systemic racism that has been ingrained into the fabric of American life.

The senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others have horrified and angered people in America and around the world. This represents only a symptom of the oppressive racial injustice that permeates every aspect of our society. While the killings of black and brown people by police or vigilantes has recently alarmed many privileged groups, the communities of color targeted by this violence live with the corrosive effects of racism every single day and in every facet of their lives.

Black and brown communities struggle to breathe, their necks under a knee of oppression. But police violence must be recognized as only one part of the ongoing institution of racism, which has also: limited access to education, curbed wealth accumulation and fair income, restricted housing, exposed entire communities to dirty air and water, and prevented sufficient access to quality healthcare. All of these disparities, among many others, cumulatively and disproportionately harm people of color.

COVID-19 has shown us again that racism is an ongoing public health crisis that, like the climate crisis, requires a concerted, relentless, and world-wide effort to address. Being black or brown in America is equivalent to a pre-existing medical condition that leads to worse medical outcomes across the board. We are committed to incorporating equity and racial justice in our efforts to advocate for policies that lead to a healthy climate. Environmental and racial justice are inextricably linked. We will continue to use our position as health professionals to speak out against racial injustice in all its forms.

Words without action are meaningless. They must be paired with persistent action and with thoughtful listening to and incorporation of communities of color. Marginalized communities are most likely to be harmed by regressive environmental policies and are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. We strive to not only recognize this injustice in our work, but to uplift the leaders, voices, and policy solutions of those who are most vulnerable.

We will call out racism where we see it, work to educate our colleagues on recognizing their own implicit biases, uplift leaders from among the most vulnerable communities, advocate for climate policies that put the most affected communities first, and exhort our elected officials to take action. Racism is an evil that must be recognized and removed root and branch from our society with the objective of collective liberation. You cannot be neutral on a moving train.

Black lives matter.

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