Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, signed an executive directive on Wednesday ordering state employees to undergo “implicit bias training.”
Executive directives allow the Michigan governor to establish procedures or basic policy for employees of the state’s executive branch. According to the directive, current state employees will be required to undergo “implicit bias training” by the end of this year, while new employees must complete the training as part of the hiring process. While various bias training initiatives have been implemented by government offices in recent months, some research shows that the impact of these initiatives is negligible.
Whitmer’s directive also called “to combat racism as a public health crisis.”
“We must confront systemic racism head on so we can create a more equitable and just Michigan,” Whitmer said at a press conference. “I hope we can continue to work towards building a more inclusive and unbiased state that works for everyone.”
The directive cited the disproportionate effects of the coronavirus pandemic on African Americans. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview last week that African Americans as a demographic were at higher risk of catching and dying of coronavirus.
“You don’t like to generalize, but as a demographic group, the African American community is more likely to be in a job that does not allow them to stay at home and do teleworking most of the time,” Fauci said. “The other side of the coin — and this has a lot to do with long-term social determinants of health — as a demographic group, African Americans have disproportionately greater incidents of the underlying conditions that allow you to have a more unfavorable outcome [from coronavirus infection].”
Governor Whitmer is not the first official to declare racism a “public health crisis:” Boston mayor Marty Walsh did so in mid-June, and the Minneapolis City Council has labeled racism a “public health emergency.”