A Year After the Jacob Blake Shooting: A Statement by Vivent Health President and CEO Mike Gifford

It’s been a year since Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times. Blake is now paralyzed; Sheskey is still an officer with the Kenosha police department. And the state of Wisconsin, the federal government and most local municipalities across the country have yet to enact meaningful police reform.

Make no mistake, while the four bills recently signed into law by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers are directionally correct (banning chokeholds, increasing transparency and creating grants for community policing), they don’t go far enough. And the sad reality is that even had these laws been in place, Sheskey still likely would have shot Blake that fateful day.

The sad and unavoidable truth is that far too many Black and Brown lives are lost because of the deep-seated racism, inequality and socioeconomic injustice that plays out every day in out communities. These injustices are not limited to policing; they extend to employment, education, infrastructure, economic development, and health care. These ills are fueled by fear mongering messages that wrongly paint people of color as violent and their communities as unworthy of investment.

Undoubtedly, these problems will not only be solved by laws and lawmakers. However, the role that our public servants and elected officials at all levels of government have to play is incredibly significant. Every time a school board bans critical race theory, students grow up with a perspective on a world that is inherently flawed. When a legislature blocks education funding because of a mask mandate, the communities that are most negatively impacted are the ones where people of color are living.

If we are to move forward and realize a more just nation, we must accept our flaws, fully confront their root causes and commit to moving forward by listening to the solutions presented by the people most directly impacted by the problems. Four new laws in Wisconsin are a step, but the journey is long and we have to start running.