Senate Health Committee hears hours of testimony regarding racism in Ohio


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — For a second time, the Senate Health Committee held a public hearing on whether racism should be declared a public health crisis in Ohio.

Ohio would be the first state to pass such a resolution.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 would urge the General Assembly to act on the issue of racism but it is non-binding. It calls for things like the creation of a working group to review state laws and promote racial equality. 

On Wednesday, dozens signed up for in person testimony telling their emotional stories of racism.

“There’s not a place that I can go where I’m not confronted with what people feel is a threat, which is the color of my skin, the texture of my hair,” said Selena Burks Rentschler.

Chairman of the Committee State Sen. Dave Burke (R) said the testimony was enlightening and disturbing at the same time. He said he would like to hold a public hearing in the community for those who may not be comfortable coming to the Statehouse to tell their stories.

“If the judicial process is your fear, I mean you’re entering into an old supreme court building that’s still very much set up in a courtroom style and you have to stand in front of a bunch of, basically a bunch of white people and tell your black Ohio story,” said Burke. “That’s extremely intimidating. That’s why I said the folks who come here and testify are heroes.”

One person who did not speak at the hearing was State Sen. Steve Huffman (R), who declined an interview at the hearing.

Huffman came under fire and lost his job as an emergency room doctor after a racially insensitive question he asked during the last public hearing.

“Those comments were unfortunate but I think like I said to other folks, we all start this conversation at a different level and forgiveness and peace has been shown by all my Senate colleagues,” Burke said. “If we’re going to engage, you don’t engage with fear. You engage with strength, knowledge, forgiveness and peace. That’s what we’re seeing.”

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