Buncombe County staff and partners presented local health and justice data that illustrated a clear disparity in outcomes for people of color in our community. This data compelled the approval of declarations by the Health & Human Services Board and Justice Resources Advisory Council along with a request for a comprehensive Board resolution elevating and confirming the crisis. These actions and the study's findings led the Board of Commissioners to approve a resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health and Safety Crisis in Buncombe County during its meeting on Aug. 4.
Some of the findings from the research include these statistics for Buncombe County (based on Buncombe Community Health Assessment data from 2018):
- Life expectancy for Black residents was, on average, 5.9 years shorter (73.4 years) compared to white residents (79.3 years).
- The overall death rate for Black residents was 38% higher than white residents.
- In 2016, 13.7% of whites experienced poverty compared to 27.2% of Blacks and 36.4% of Hispanics.
- The average per capita income for whites was $28,480 compared to $15,335 for Blacks and $13,121 for Hispanics.
Based on this research and the resolution, County staff is directed to look for ways to eliminate racial disparities in areas such as education, housing, health, the justice system, and other areas. There is also a focus to look inward at County policies and practices that could unintentionally support racism such as purchasing and hiring practices.
Commissioner Joe Belcher said, “I look forward to the work staff will do and bring back to us, we have a commitment as a Board, staff, and community to work toward positive solutions.” And Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara added, “This is an important step forward to come together as a community and name racism as the crisis it is.”
You can read more of the research here and the resolution here.