Let’s be clear: Black people have always gotten the short end of the stick throughout American history. So, really, it shouldn’t be a surprise that now, in the throes of the worst public health pandemic for anybody living, that unfortunate tradition is being carried on during the coronavirus crisis.
Typically, when any sort of calamity occurs — anything from a natural disaster to the looming recession — Black people end up bearing the brunt of the bad. But the coronavirus is a unique crisis in that it is decidedly health-related, yet it’s still affecting so many other aspects of life that have nothing to do with health. That has prompted the tragic collision of the aforementioned truths to explode in an apparent surge of Black people not just contracting the respiratory disease also known as COVID-19, but also dying of complications from it.
From the Associated Press to the New York Times to multiple local news outlets like those in Milwaukee and Michigan and Chicago, there was no shortage of reports over the weekend about the unfortunate trend. The news came as the country braced for what may be the deadliest week yet during the coronavirus crisis.
Below we take a look at 5 reasons why Black people are disproportionately contracting the coronavirus.
1. Trust issues
Even if a lack of health insurance wasn’t an issue — and it is — the Associated Press had a report Sunday that reminded readers how “Historic failures in government responses to disasters and emergencies, medical abuse, neglect and exploitation have jaded generations of black people into a distrust of public institutions. From the Tuskegee syphilis “study” and to the recent reports about France wanting to conduct coronavirus experiments on Africans, Black people across the globe can’t be blamed for any suspicion about Western medicine. Those trust issues probably mean not just less testing but also less personal protective equipment like masks and gloves, since even hospitals are hurting for those supplies.
2. Pre-existing health conditions
The fact that statistically Black people have a laundry list of underlying health issues (including asthma, diabetes and heart disease) that could become exacerbated after contracting the coronavirus is a major concern. It’s also likely contributing to what ProPublica said was Black people “being infected and dying at higher rates.”
3. Black folks are still being locked up
Just because America is grappling with the coronavirus crisis doesn’t mean the unwritten rules of law enforcement are changing for Black people. The NYPD reportedly “won’t slow arrests” even as New York City’s jails are becoming infested with cases of the coronavirus and the notorious Riker’s Island on Sunday reported its first coronavirus-related death. More than half of the city’s inmates are Black.
4. “Social distancing is a privilege”
As the New York Times’ Charles Blow explains so well, “social distancing is a privilege” that Black folks don’t always have. Nearly 20 percent of all Black people are able to work from home, according to statistics from the Economic Policy Insitute. That means they can’t “shelter in place” or obey that stay at home and social distancing orders that others are able to, thus increasing their chances of being exposed to the coronavirus.
5. Fake news
From the president detrimentally downplaying the threat of the coronavirus to ridiculous rumors that Black people were immune to the coronavirus, false narratives have flooded mainstream and social media since the sickness was first reported. On top of that, aside from this past weekend, there hasn’t been much attention given to any racial aspect of the coronavirus. Taken together, all of those factors could have contributed to what seems like some Black folks having a false sense of confidence that they won’t contract the coronavirus. The country is finding out, slowly but surely, that is just not true at all.