Governor Gretchen Whitmer has elevated black voices in state government by creating the Black Leadership Advisory Council, recognizing racism as a public health crisis and requiring implicit bias training for all state employees.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, confirmed, and highlighted the deadly nature of pre-existing inequities caused by systemic racism, Whitmer says. The rate of reported COVID-19 deaths for black/African American Michigan residents is more than four times higher than for white residents, according to the state’s data.
“We must confront systemic racism head on so we can create a more equitable and just Michigan,” says Whitmer. “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.
It will be housed within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and 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 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 and 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 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.
”It is only after we have fully defined the injustice that we can begin to take steps to replace it with a greater system of justice that enables all Michiganders to pursue their fullest dreams and potential,” says Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II.
The governor has also directed that all state employees be required to take implicit bias training to understand the unconscious preferences many 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,” says Whitmer.
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.