Marathon County Government Leaders to Participate in Learning about Why Race Matters

Written by Judy Burrows

Have you ever thought that our goal of being the healthiest, safest, and most prosperous county in Wisconsin is unachievable?

Have you really thought about what life could be like if EVERYONE here was healthy, safe, and prosperous?

Well, recently I’ve been thinking about what that really means . . . In my opinion, for everyone to achieve this goal, EVERYONE will need to have a fair opportunity to achieve health, safety, and prosperity — regardless of such factors as one’s race.

Why single out race?

Because race matters.

Research shows us that compared to people of other races, Caucasians are more likely to:

  • Graduate from high school and college
  • Earn a higher income
  • Have better access to health care
  • Live in better homes

Less poverty, better health, and better living conditions for Whites means that they are more likely to be safe, healthy, and prosperous compared to people of other races.

THAT’S why we need to begin to talk about race — and other forms of disparity — as government leaders work to determine how Marathon County can be the healthiest, safest, and most prosperous place to live in Wisconsin — for ALL its citizens.


A group of leaders from Marathon County Government will participate in a “Learning Community” to discuss how to achieve racial equity in our communities, meeting on occasion to collaborate and share ideas and successes.

This Learning Community will focus on:

  • Understanding the role of government in relation to racial equity
  • Using tools and case studies to examine how we talk about race
  • Learning how to use results-based accountability to create a Racial Equity Action Plan
  • Organizing strategies for implementation for the Leadership and Interdepartmental teams


The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) is hosting this Learning Community in Wisconsin, and several other communities will also participate. GARE has several helpful resources available for download (such as the two shown below), if interested.

GARE’s “Advancing Racial Equity and Transforming Government” resource guide is available for download as a PDF here.

GARE’s “Racial Equity Toolkit” is available for download as a PDF here.

Government and public policy play an enormous role in creating or dissolving biases, injustices, and inequalities.

When a community discovers together what it does well and then openly celebrates — and acknowledges assets, successes, and its collective capabilities — it creates upwards energy that fuels a spirit of:

We can do this!

There is not a predetermined agenda for what Marathon County’s action plan will be at the end of the experience. The intention is to learn together and explore the possibilities of how we can change. Real change begins with the simple step of honest, reflective, and challenging conversations about racism, injustice, and disparities.

Talking about race is complex and multi-layered. History is steeped in generations of racism, and despite some progress, it still exists.

There is not a comfortable space when challenging racism and oppression; but it can be safe. Our intention is to participate, be uncomfortable, and do it in a safe space. It’s important that we learn how to speak honestly and respectfully about our community’s shared racial history.

wipps logo

In January, Marathon County received a report from the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS) on an Inclusivity Study conducted with Marathon County employees. That report found that inclusivity has gotten progressively better in County Government but that there is still room for improvement. The report has a number of recommendations, but one that stands out as a good place to start is:

  • Creating safe routes for conversation about potential issues of diversity and discrimination.

We’ve all gotten so wrapped up in being careful not to offend others that we’re simply not talking about issues and perceptions that matter. But avoidance is a strategy that will get us nowhere.

With a little skill building and some encouragement, we can change that and get comfortable talking and listening with minority-group employees and residents. Once we build that skill, all of our conversations will get better!

In addition, once Marathon County Government leaders become more involved in GARE’s Learning Community, opportunities for others to participate in meaningful conversations about race will arise.


The Editorial Board of Wisconsin Central Time NEWS will continue to keep you informed on this joint GARE endeavor so that the public can assist Marathon County leadership in building a healthier, safer, and more prosperous community for all.

judy burrowsJudy Burrows

Program Director  |  Marathon County Health Department

Judy Burrows is a Program Director with the Marathon County Health Department. She is passionate about making meaningful community change that has a positive impact on the people and the places we live. She manages a team of eight talented staff who work across the County on strategies to implement the Marathon County Community Health Improvement Plan. She has over 25 years of experience in Public Health. Outside of work, she likes to travel, spend her free time with her family, and enjoy outdoor activities.  Email Judy Burrows.

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Image credits:
Unity image by truthseeker08 via Pixabay.
Us image by johnhain via Pixabay.