Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Racial Equity Legislation Signed Into Law

Also, Juneteenth officially becomes a major holiday for Milwaukee County.

By - Jul 22nd, 2020 05:44 pm
A woman holds a sign honoring George Floyd. Photo by Maddy Day.

A woman holds a sign honoring George Floyd. Photo by Maddy Day.

Legislation aimed at the ultimate goal of racial equity in Milwaukee County was signed into law Wednesday by Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

The legislation is another step in the long march towards that goal in this county. It directs the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, the Milwaukee County Transit System and the Circuit Court to develop reports on their current policies related to racial equity.

“We have a long way to go towards making Milwaukee County the healthiest county in the state of Wisconsin,” Crowley said during a virtual signing Wednesday. “As we work towards this goal, it is imperative that we look at our current policies and practices to identify the changes needed to undo institutional and structural racism within Milwaukee County Government.”

In June, while discussing the legislation at a county board meeting, Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson said the board’s immediate goal  “is to explore and act on efforts that will create meaningful change.”

After George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis Police Officers in May, police brutality and other ills that spring from systemic racism have been the topic of a national conversation. Protests demanding change have become a part of daily life. Nicholson referred to “extreme mistreatments” meted out under systemic racism, saying, “it happens in our courts and it happens in our systems everyday.”

“It is up to us to not only call out those injustices, but to act,” she said.

Since 2019, county government has been operating under a legal declaration that racism is a public health crisis and making it a policy goal for the county to achieve racial equity. This legislation is the latest aimed at addressing racial inequality produced by county government policies, Crowley said,  

Nicholson said the resolution signed Wednesday is “part of those incremental steps that we can take to make sure that we’re prioritizing our communities of color, and achieving racial equity for everyone.”

Crowley also signed legislation making Juneteenth a major holiday for county government, putting it in line with holidays like New Years and Labor Day.

Nicholson said the move was a “milestone” as the county works on racial equity goals. “Declaring Juneteenth as a holiday lifts up Black achievement and encourages Black people to be proud of their heritage and their community,” she said. The holiday, she said, will “contribute to feelings of pride and self worth,” for Black people in Milwaukee County.

Juneteenth is a celebration of the day that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, informing the last people still suffering under slavery in the U.S. of the Emancipation Proclamation’s signing and their freedom.

Crowley noted that Juneteenth is a celebration of the Black community’s “rich history,” while also being a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to achieve racial equity.

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