Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive Wednesday declaring racism a public health crisis in Michigan.

To address the health crisis, Whitmer also signed an executive order creating the Black Leadership Advisory Council to “develop, review, and recommend policies and actions designed to eradicate and prevent discrimination and racial inequity in Michigan.”

“We must confront systemic racism head on so we can create a more equitable and just Michigan,” Whitmer said. “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 council 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.”

The council will be tasked with:

  • Identifying state laws, or gaps in state law, that perpetuate inequities
  • Collaborating with the governor’s office and the Black community to promote legislation that seeks to remedy structural inequities
  • Promoting the cultural arts within the Black community
  • Serving as a resource for community groups on issues, programs, sources of funding and compliance requirements within state government in order to benefit and advance the interests of the Black community

“These past several months have been difficult for all of us, but they have been especially tough for Black and Brown people who for generations have battled the harms caused by a system steeped in persistent inequalities,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said. “These are the same inequities that have motivated so many Americans of every background to confront the legacy of systemic racism that has been a stain on our state and nation from the beginning.”

Genesee County declared racism a public health crisis in June.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley praised the creation of the council.

“These actions outlined today by Governor Whitmer will have a transformative impact on our state,” Neeley said. “We are blessed to have a governor who is willing to hear us, march with us, and use her office to build a better, more equal world.”

Those interested in serving on the council can apply at

Whitmer previously created a task force to address racial disparities seen in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrew Roth is a reporter and photographer covering politics and policy in Michigan, as well technology, culture and their convergence. Andrew is a journalism student at Michigan State University and first...