New York Governor Declares Racism ‘Public Health Emergency’ Amid New Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Activists are seen smashing “Racism” sign with a baseball bat in Union Square, New York City on July 31, 2021. (Shutterstock)

By Kiara Alfonseca, ABC News

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has declared racism a “public health crisis,” signing an entire package of legislation Dec. 23 aimed at addressing discrimination and racial injustice in the state.

“For far too long, communities of color in New York have been held back by systemic racism and inequitable treatment,” Hochul said in a statement last week. “I am proud to sign legislation that addresses this crisis head-on, addressing racism, expanding equity, and improving access for all.”

The new slate of laws address the need for comprehensive data collection on victims of violence and specifically Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders communities that have been ravaged by hate crimes throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislation has been spearheaded by state assembly members Karines Reyes and Yuh-Line Niou, Sens. Kevin S. Parker and Brad Hoylman, and more.

Legislation S.70-A/A.2230 is intended to enact the “hate crimes analysis and review act,” which will create guidelines for the collection and reporting of demographic data concerning hate crime victims and their alleged perpetrators.

“Our state is meant to be a beacon of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but without the tools to protect our marginalized communities these words carry little truth behind them,” Reyes said in a press release. “The Hate Crimes Analysis and Review Act ensures that we collect accurate demographic data of perpetrators and victims to better protect the communities being targeted. Without data, the plight of many will remain invisible.”

Legislation S.6639-A/A.6896-A will require that the state collect specific demographic information to keep a “more accurate and relevant public record” of Asian-American populations in New York.

Senator Julia Salazar says data collection is important toward acknowledging the needs of certain communities and allowing proper resources to be allocated to them.

“As New York continues to face the devastation caused by the COVID-19 public health crisis, it is essential that the needs of all of our communities be understood and met,” Salazar said in the press release. “For the diverse Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities in New York this cannot be accomplished without detailed data that recognizes and respects the experiences of the numerous groups that make up the AAPI communities.”

The legislation also requires the New York State Office of Technology Services to implement language translation technology across all state agencies to ensure that websites and services are translatable into the most common non-English languages spoken by New Yorkers.

“Asian-American communities are among the most impoverished in New York,” Niou said. “They also faced some of the toughest headwinds even before the pandemic began while also being unable to navigate critical government services due to a lack of language accessibility.”

The long list of new efforts will also cover inclusivity in health care, expanding the list of conditions that newborns are screened for to include conditions found in newborns from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia.

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