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CAIR Decries Striking of Preamble on Role of Racism in Health Disparities Bill in Maryland Legislature

(BALTIMORE, Md., 3/3/21) – The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today decried the striking of language in Senate Bill 52 Public Health – Maryland Commission on Health Equity (The Shirley Nathan-Pulliam Health Equity Act of 2021) in the Maryland General Assembly that addresses and highlights the role of racism in health disparities. 

SEE: Senate Bill 52 

https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2021RS/bills/sb/sb0052T.pdf

Maryland Senate health disparity bill loses mention of racism

https://www.phillytrib.com/news/across_america/maryland-senate-health-disparity-bill-loses-mention-of-racism/article_5028cf95-13a0-53a1-8ff7-d89177cf7b09.html

The preamble of the bill, which is sponsored by Senator Mary Washington, originally read in part:

“Racism is rooted in the foundation of America, from the time chattel slavery began in the 1600s, to the Jim Crow era, to the declaration of the war on drugs that eventually led to the mass incarceration of Black people, and it has remained a presence in American society while subjecting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to hardships and disadvantages in every aspect of life.”

All 11 references to racism were struck after pushback from Republican and some conservative Democrat lawmakers who raised objections and expressed a preference to focus on the bill’s “substance” instead. 

“The preamble of this bill contains important context that is relevant to understanding the extent, scope and nature of factors contributing to health disparities in our state and beyond,” said CAIR’s Director in Maryland Zainab Chaudry. “We can’t effectively get to the root of a problem and fix it until we first find the courage to take a good hard look and examine the issue of systemic racism more closely. It’s dismaying that despite the racial reckoning sweeping our nation, some of our lawmakers are still not ready to acknowledge tough realities that communities of color have been forced to confront for generations.”

In CAIR’s written and oral testimony before the Senate Finance Committee in support of the measure earlier this session, Government Affairs intern Huzzaifa Muhammad stated in part: 

“Racism has been on the forefront of this past year, however there are many consequences of racism, and health inequity is one of them. Research shows that ethnic minorities and people of color tend to have access to lower quality of health compared with others. In fact, according to the Center for American Progress, African-Americans are less likely to have health insurance and also have the highest mortality rate for all cancers. These health inequities are partly due to poverty, less access to affordable medical care, and discrimination in the health care system. They have been especially harmful during the coronavirus pandemic over the last year, where countless reports and studies have exposed racial disparities and shown that communities of color – particularly African-American communities – are disproportionately adversely impacted by COVID-19 infections.”

The bill, named for former state senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, aims to create a statewide commission charged with examining the health of Maryland residents and assessing the impact of factors including access to affordable housing, educational attainment and employment. Commissioners’ objective would be to advise state government on racial, ethnic, cultural or socioeconomic disparities in health, and identify goals for health equity.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.    

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.    

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CONTACT: CAIR Office in Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry, 410-971-6062, zchaudry@cair.com

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