For an entire year now, COVID-19 has dominated our lives. To prevent the spread of the disease, professional sports leagues halted competition, workplaces moved remote, and grocery stores have been overwhelmed. Despite our best efforts, the virus has claimed the lives of millions of our friends and family members worldwide. Amid all this confusion and grief, one thing is certain.
This pandemic is discriminatory.
The spread of effects of the virus have removed the mask behind which our healthcare system has hidden. Stark inequities are clear to anyone paying attention to the news and fall mostly along racial lines. Black and Brown people have been doing the lion’s share of the dying since early 2020, and these disparities don’t show any signs of improving.
In fact, people of color are nearly five times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and three times more likely to be infected.
A number of factors have contributed to this inequity.
First of all, marginalized communities are more likely to work essential jobs that bring them in contact with the virus. This overrepresentation stems from a lack of economic opportunity in areas dominated by Black and Brown people as well as difficulties in creating intergenerational wealth. It’s more difficult for low-income families to get ahead, so they’re forced to work hourly jobs at low wages.
Housing concerns have also contributed to these COVID-19 discrepancies. Due to a lack of affordable housing, minorities are more likely to live in multigenerational, crowded homes in densely populated areas. There’s a lot less room to live in the inner city than out in the suburbs, so when one person is diagnosed with the virus, they’re more likely to pass it along to a family member.
Of course, the list doesn’t stop there. Marginalized people are more likely to take public transportation, be homeless, and belong to a number of other high-risk groups. But even once they catch the virus, the quality of care available is often inadequate.
Hospitals that serve nonwhite areas are chronically underfunded and find themselves at full capacity more often than others. Despite the best efforts of medical staff, this degradation in care has created a startling imbalance in deaths.
Latinx and Black residents are 2.3 and 1.9 times more likely to succumb to the effects of COVID-19 than white people, respectively.
This is not a standalone statistic. All of the aforementioned examples of discrimination play into the best example we have of our society not prioritizing Black and Brown lives. By ignoring these factors, as so many pundits and lawmakers do, we are implicit in millions of preventable deaths.
Marginalized communities deserve better than this. Inalienable rights don’t just belong to those with white skin. It’s only through admission of our faults and failures that we can move past them and offer genuine change. People clapping for essential workers is nice, but thoughts and prayers be damned.
This requires action.
Call your legislators and tell them about the effects of institutional racism on the lives of minorities in America. Urge them to fight for equity in everything they do and especially when dealing with a deadly disease.