Originally posted on Essense.com – Read the full article here

By Tracey Ross

Over the past couple of months, we’ve watched as a pandemic has taken over the country while the Trump administration continues to ignore the advice of public health experts. Every day we learn more about the virus, the toll it’s taking on communities and the associated economic fallout. While all people are at risk, we now know that people of color, particularly Black people, are bearing the brunt of the effects of COVID-19. Black workers are overrepresented as essential workers, have a prevalence of underlying health conditions and are more likely to receive unequal treatment in the health care system. Recent data show that Black people account for one third of COVID-19 hospitalizations while making up only 13 percent of the U.S. population.

This is no coincidence, but the result of decades of discriminatory policies and practices that have resulted in persistent racial and economic disparities. Still, some have suggested that the individual choices of Black people are what makes them vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. As Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor explained in The New Yorker, “Racializing poverty helps to distract from the systemic factors at the foundation of both racial and economic inequality. Instead, there is an overabundance of attention placed on the diagnosis and repair of supposedly damaged African-Americans.” Health Equity Cypher Discusses COVID-19 in Black Communities. Black communities in the U.S. are more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to racial, wealth, and healthcare discrimination. The Health Equity Cypher discusses what we should demand from our elected officials and ways to stay safe during this pandemic.

By ignoring the structural causes of these disparities is to accept them as normal—even necessary—and frees the government from the responsibility of repairing past harms inflicted by its own policies. So what does it mean when leaders say they are ready to get back to normal if normal includes racial disparities? Economic and racial inequality is so deeply ingrained in our structures that “normal” has meant a Black unemployment rate consistently twice that of White workers. Normal has meant segregated schools, unaffordable housing and over-policing. Normal has meant greater exposure to environmental hazards and barriers to health care. Normal is not good enough.

Congress cannot pass relief bills that don’t account for systemic issues. We need a long-term recovery that centers on racial equity. From natural disasters to economic downturns, we know that when recovery efforts do not focus on achieving racial equity such efforts only serve to reinforce persistent disparities. 

Following Hurricane Katrina, which displaced thousands of New Orleans residents, the state of Louisiana distributed federal funding to assist homeowners based on their pre-storm home values—an assessment fraught with racial bias—rather than the cost of repairs. As a result, Black homeowners received an average of $8,000 less than White homeowners. By proposing this seemingly race-neutral policy, leaders reinforced existing disparities that devalue Blackness and hinder Black wealth-building.  

Originally posted on Essense.com by Tracy Ross – Continue reading the full article here