The coronavirus pandemic has changed life for everybody around the world in what seems like an overnight shift from normalcy to heightened urgency. But in America, where the COVID-19 disease is spreading exponentially, Black people were bracing for consequences from the respiratory illness that has already affected them in myriad ways that are not related to their health.
Here are 10 ways that the coronavirus has affected Black America that have nothing to do with health.
Jobs are being lost at a record rate with the Economic Policy Institute predicting that the coronavirus’ shock to the workforce could mean that as many as 3 million jobs will be eliminated by the time summer rolls around. But tucked within that prediction is one understated fact: workers affected the most are those with “low-wage, low-productivity, and low-hours jobs in service industries.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more Black people were working minimum wage jobs than any other race or ethnicity represented in the American workforce. That means that more Black folks relative to the nation’s population were having or should expect to have their employment compromised, suspended or completely eliminated because of the coronavirus. That reality is even harsher when factoring in how Black unemployment, while at historically low levels, is still nearly twice that of white people.
The coronavirus has also caused widespread panic in the financial marketplace, prompting a stock market crash of historic proportions that has upended some folks’ 401k retirement plans.
With the ever-widening wealth gap along racial lines showing no signs of contracting anytime soon, the looming new recession was all but guaranteed to disproportionately affect Black folks, many of whom were still recovering from the financial crisis of 2009.
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One of the many ways Americans are reacting to the coronavirus is by buying guns in apparent preparation for the uncertainty that the disease is all but guaranteed to bring moving forward. Gun sales have soared and while it’s naive to think that the only buyers are white, it may be equally as short-sighted to assume that there are fewer white folks buying guns than Black people are. Statistics have shown that there are more white gun owners than Black ones. If America is headed toward martial law — a notion that Newsweek hinted could be a real possibility — then people will surely want to take extra measures to protect themselves and their families. Since it’s already clear how much America values Black lives in times of so-called civil rule, living among armed white folks living on-edge may not be very safe for Black folks as the coronavirus wages its silent war.
The impact that the coronavirus has had on criminal justice reform has been both unintentional and undeniable. In a matter of weeks, drastic steps have been taken to both release inmates from jails and prisons as well as police departments ordering their officers to stop making arrests for the type of nonviolent crimes that many times get Black folks locked up more than anyone else. These are things that criminal justice reform advocates have been fighting for decades to achieve. It took a deadly disease threatening America’s detention centers to get local officials to act.
America has been on an upward trajectory when it comes to racism. That much is not a surprise at this point. However, the racism against Asians — Chinese people, in particular — has been ramped up exponentially because of ignorance associated with the origins of the coronavirus as demonstrated by President Donald Trump‘s insistence on calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.” It’s the type of racism that Black people have long been accustomed to. America’sapparent change in racist focus from Black folks to Asians is quite the paradigm shift to witness.
Black folks are already behind academically, but now, with schools being on the verge of ending the academic year altogether, students’ educations have been left in limbo for those who need it the most. Coupled with the fact that statistics show 65 percent of Black parents don’t live with the mother or father of their child(ren), it’s not hard to conclude that Black children will be disproportionately affected by having their classes end prematurely. And although classes have shifted from in-person to online for some, racial minorities “are less likely to have broadband [internet] service at home,” according to Pew Research Center.
The uncertainty over how long America will be dealing with the coronavirus — some estimates put it at up to 18 months — coupled with presidential primaries being canceled left and right is lending credence to fears that there may not be a general election this year as scheduled. That means Trump and his incompetent handling of the coronavirus could continue to call the nation’s shots amid Black voters turning out in record numbers to help Democrats nominate a candidate who can beat and remove him from office. Black folks, especially women, have been leading the fight to remove Trump since the day he was elected. With nearly eight out of every 10 Black people disapproving of Trump’s presidency, having him preside any longer than he’s supposed would be a slap in the face to much of Black America.
With the closing of businesses across the country due to the coronavirus, many workers must face the idea of not being able to pay their rent. For cities that are already suffering a homeless crisis, the health risks are increased even further by the presence of the coronavirus disease. For perspective, “African Americans make up more than 40% of the homeless population, but represent 13 percent of the general population,” according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Luckily, city officials, activists and even property owners are taking action to curtail the economic panic many Americans are experiencing. In some cases, their actions highlight issues that will long continue even when the coronavirus is contained.
There’s no basketball! OK, this isn’t just a Black America thing, but the coronavirus has canceled both professional and college hoops in America — games that are primarily comprised of Black people — leaving a serious void for the players, who are mostly Black. While this may not be among the most serious things affecting Black folks during the coronavirus crisis, the absence of organized sports on all levels eliminates a favorite pastime for both participants and viewers as Americans grapple with life without athletics.
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