By Bria Brown

LANSING, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) — Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Wednesday creating the Black Leadership Advisory Council. The governor also signed an executive directive declaring racism as a public health crisis in Michigan.

Under the executive directive, the governor asked MDHHS to make health equity a major goal, as well as required implicit bias training for all state employees.

“Since I was sworn in as governor, I have made it a top priority to include more people of color, more women, and more members of the LGBTQ+ community at the table. We’ve been able to build a more inclusive state government, but there is more work to do. That’s why today, I am proud to create the Black Leadership Advisory Council of Michigan,” said Whitmer. “We must confront systemic racism head on so we can create a more equitable and just Michigan. This is not about one party or person. I hope we can continue to work towards building a more inclusive and unbiased state that works for everyone.”

The Black Leadership Advisory Council will be included among a set of diverse ethnic commissions within the state of Michigan. Although African Americans are the largest racial minority in the state, this Council is the first of its kind in Michigan to elevate Black leaders and representatives.

The Council will act in an advisory capacity to the governor and develop, review, and recommend policies and actions designed to eradicate and prevent discrimination and racial inequity in Michigan. To accomplish this goal, the Council is charged with:

  • Identifying state laws, or gaps in state law, that create or perpetuate inequities, with the goal of promoting economic growth and wealth equity for the Black community.
  • Collaborating with the governor’s office and the Black community to promote legislation and regulation that ensures equitable treatment of all Michiganders, and seeks to remedy structural inequities in this state.
  • Serving as a resource for community groups on issues, programs, sources of funding, and compliance requirements within state government in order to benefit and advance the interests of the Black community.
  • Promoting the cultural arts within the Black community through coordinated efforts, advocacy, and collaboration with state government.
  • Providing other information or advice or taking other actions as requested by the governor.

Housed within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, the Black Leadership Advisory Council will consist of 16 voting members representing Black leadership in economics, public policy, health and wellness, technology, the environment, agriculture, arts and culture, and more. It will also product an annual report on its activities.

The executive directive directs MDHHS to work with other state departments to examine data, develop and plan policies, and engage, communicate and advocate for communities of color. The governor has directed that all state employees be required to take implicit bias training to understand the unconscious preferences we experience without intentional control and how it can impact others. The training is required for  existing employees and must be completed within 60 days for newly hired employees.

“Implicit, unconscious bias exists within each of us, and as public servants we have a duty to understand how our bias can impact the lives of others,” said Whitmer. “I am committed to leading by example and making sure state government is a model for equality, understanding, and fairness.”

Under the executive directive, data documenting differences in health outcomes among racial and ethnic groups in Michigan must be collected, analyzed, and made publicly available to help leaders implement equitable policies. Additionally, departments must understand how racial disparities in societal, environmental, and behavioral factors intersect to affect access to resources like good jobs, access to healthy and affordable food and housing, equitable transportation options, and quality public education.

The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities will work in partnership with departments to develop a plan that details how Michigan will eliminate the root causes of the inequities that cause disparities in health outcomes for our residents.

MDHHS has introduced an Equity Impact Assessment (EIA) tool to help prevent implicit bias from affecting the policies and practices the department develops to serve the community. The EIA guides leaders to think through the full implications of their decisions on minority populations and is proven to decrease systematic disparities and inequities in marginalized populations.

To apply to the Black Leadership Advisory Council visit Michigan.gov/appointments and click “Black Leaders Advisory Council” from the drop menu of the application. Applications are due by Wednesday, August 19, by 5 p.m.

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Comments
  1. Ralph Jones says:

    As someone who strongly believes that racial disparities are a scourge on our country, I must question the Governor’s use of the same approach that has been ineffective over the course of the last 60 years. There are now several million black citizens who have somehow dodged bullets in the inner cities, the unhealthy conditions experienced by fellow blacks, unequal educations and the systemic racism that exists in our society to secure good paying jobs, college degrees, home ownership and have made significant contributions to our society. These are the people who should be studied; their journey should be what informs us as we move forward.

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