COVID-19’s Glaring Racial Disparity and What’s Being Proposed To Narrow the Gaps

People wait for a distribution of masks and food from the Rev Al Sharpton in New York. Image: Bebeto Matthews/AP

For communities of color in the United States, years of discriminatory policies and environmental injustice have made them more susceptible to dying from COVID-19. And now, as we’re almost 2 months into lockdown, those same communities are grappling with more severe housing insecurity and worse access to medical care than their white counterparts. As lawmakers navigate measures to loosen stay at home orders and Congress works to pass more relief packages, they need to actively support marginalized communities to mitigate needless suffering.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s Twitter thread sums up many of the issues:

This also promoted presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to release The Biden Plan for Black America in which he proposes the ways his administration would work to strengthen our medical, housing, and overall political system to close the gaps of institutionalized racism and environmental injustice.

Why This Matters: Recovery from coronavirus will last many years and it will present us with an opportunity to rebuild part of our society and political system that have not been working to serve Americans. Much as we did in the midst of the Great Depression and after WWII, we can create a new contract for our society. Shaping a nation that works for most people instead of doing the most for a select few at the top is also the best way to ensure the protection of our planet. If this is a vision we seek then we need to push the lawmakers vying for our votes this November to begin the groundwork for this new contract.

Go Deeper: Check out the Political Climate podcast‘s most recent episode which takes a look at how COVID-19 and climate change are affecting African American communities and how these issues can be tackled in tandem. It’s worth a listen!

The State of Play: As Charles Blow wrote in his op-ed for the New York Times, the way in which we handle these next precarious weeks and months is telling of how we regard the most disenfranchised Americans. Because for minorities and the working class, returning to work with few precautions is far from a choice. He writes,

For some, a reopened economy and recreational landscape will mean the option to run a business, return to work, go to the park or beach, or have a night on the town at a nice restaurant or swanky bar. But for many on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, it will only force them back into compulsory exposure to more people, often in occupations that make it hard to protect oneself and that pay little for the risk.

Adding that,

America has never been comfortable discussing the inequalities that America created, let alone addressing them. America loves a feel-good, forget-the-past-let’s-start-from-here mantra.

But, this virus is exploiting these man-made inequalities and making them impossible to ignore.

Lack of Data: The other big issue is that there is not nearly enough data being collected when it comes to race and COVID infections. A proper response to protect African Americans and other minority groups cannot be implemented if the specific ways in which the virus affects these groups cannot be measured. It’s why, as Vox reported, a new bill from Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), the Covid-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act, would set up a task force to address the racial disparities that have emerged in coronavirus cases and deaths.

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