Racism, a public health crisis: What’s next for San Antonio?

Residents, local leaders weigh in on the actions they’d like to see

Declaring racism a public health crisis in August was an important move for the City of San Antonio as people of color make up more than 75% of the city’s population.

SAN ANTONIODeclaring racism a public health crisis in August was an important move for the City of San Antonio as people of color make up more than 75% of the city’s population.

Intending to ultimately attain equity for all in the Alamo City, passing the resolution was just the first step, and many are left wondering what happens next.

Tramelle Jones has lived in San Antonio for more than 30 years and is among those who believe the time for action is now.

“I don’t necessarily see there being a huge push in the resolution to name specifics of what they will do,” Jones said.

While she’s proud of the city for declaring racism a health crisis, Jones says she’s waiting to see what type of changes will be implemented.

Racism, a public health crisis: Learning from others who have passed similar resolutions

“I really feel it’s not this ‘reinvent the wheel.’ Look at the resolution, identify all of those points, and let’s reverse. Let’s use what’s already out there,” she said.

The resolution passed by the San Antonio City Council doesn’t make immediate changes or specify how they will be made. But the city says it will review policies that contribute to racial inequities.

Another resident, Glo Armmer, has lived in San Antonio her whole life.

She believes community engagement is a crucial starting point when it comes to deciding what follows the resolution.

“I would love for them to make a community board or something like that where they would ask people, ‘What do you want, and how can we help facilitate that?’” Armmer said.

District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan agrees but says the first step to solving any problem is admitting there is one.

“Racism is not just something that is written, and it’s not something we can give a shot for. It is something that’s embedded, and until we get it down to the root and the core of that, then we start to see a change,” Andrews-Sullivan said.

Following the lead of more than 80 other states, cities and counties -- which have made similar declarations -- Andrews-Sullivan says the city is working to identify the inequities that continuously put people of color at a disadvantage.

“We looked to our Department of Equity that has the equity atlas. They have the equity maps that show what steps we need to truly take,” Andrews-Sullivan said.

Those inequities, bolstered by racism, hinder change in our community. According to local epidemiologist Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, health care is a prime example.

“We know that racism has an impact on individual health for certain, and when you think collectively, it’s public health,” she said.

Rohr-Allegrini said many people of color lack access to healthy foods, safe parks and health care. She said Black people, in particular, are hit hardest.

“We have higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension, all of those things,” she said.

Since making its declaration in August, the city has yet to put forth a concrete action plan.

While Andrews-Sullivan says it’s something they’re working toward, locals are just hoping to see some ideas soon, no matter how small.

“We’re not asking for the moon and the stars. We’re asking for matters,” Armmer said.

“I’m waiting. I want to see what happens next,” Jones said.

Before the declaration, the city’s Office of Innovation started examining how the city collects data about residents and how it can eliminate bias that furthers disparities. The Office of Innovation says the examination aligns with the city’s goal of tackling policies that contribute to inequities.

About the Authors:

Alex McCloud is a news producer.

Alex Trevino is a video editor at KSAT who works on the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.