America's Racial Fault Lines are Deadly Amid Coronavirus Crisis
It was only a matter of time until the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the African American community. Many may take exception with the use of the term ravage, but history necessitates the vivid description. The American public has a very short memory but the last economic catastrophe, the 2008 Great Recession, decimated the wealth of black families. Many of the practices that caused one of the largest transfers of wealth in history remain in effect today. For many in the African American community wealth is directly tied to home ownership. Predatory loans that put owners into homes with high-interest mortgages and unaffordable balloon payment structures were the cause of defaults as home values collapsed. This practice disproportionately perpetrated against the poor and communities of color. Today, African Americans make up only 3 percent of conventional mortgage applications, the lowest rate of any racial group, and blacks also face the highest denial rate, about 25 percent versus only 10 percent for white applicants.
This article is not about the financial rush and roulette that many families of color face on a monthly basis.
It is about the transference of apathetic policies that keep the African American community firmly under society’s foot. If the financial disparities in communities of color are demoralizing, the health disparities are life threatening! The decades of disparate healthcare in communities of color has finally resulted in deadly consequences. The 21st century has not been kind to the poor, communities of color or disenfranchised. Prior to the Great Recession of 2008, Hurricane Katrina revealed just how fragile the underinsured and uninsured can be. The global coronavirus pandemic is once again shining a light on America’s racial fault lines. It does not matter if the disaster is natural or economic the resulting impact on communities of color is the same. When White America catches a cold, Black America has coronavirus. African Americans, the 42 million descendants of chattel slaves, will experience this Biblical scourge in ways that are very different from Whites.
Scientifically, the virus does not discriminate.
There is little publicly available data about the racial makeup of those Americans who have been tested, have tested positive for the coronavirus, have been hospitalized, have become critically ill, those who have recovered, or those who have died from COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control information site does not offer racial data, neither does Bexar County Metro Health District. A Metro Health District spokesperson said, “Once we have enough data to accurately reflect racial data, we will include that information on our portal”. They expect to begin reporting racial information by the end of this week. Bifurcating data along racial line becomes more important when one considers the information gathered from those entities that have reported racial data.
The Illinois Department of Public Health, one of the few state offices to release some racial data showed a pandemic within the pandemic:
African Americans are significantly overrepresented in infection rates in Illinois, while whites and Latinos are significantly underrepresented. African Americans make up 14.6 percent of the state population, but 28 percent of confirmed cases of the coronavirus. White people comprise 76.9 percent of the Illinois population, and 39 percent of the confirmed cases. Latinos comprise 17.4 percent of the state population, and 7 percent of the cases. According to The Atlantic, more than 4,000 African American coronavirus patients have died in the United States. Coronavirus outbreaks are plaguing metropolises with large black and brown populations including Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and New York, and smaller cities like Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Albany, Georgia.
As previously stated, coronavirus knows no race, gender or ethnicity.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation this novel coronavirus is attracted to those with compromised immune systems, people of advanced age, and younger individuals who have heart disease, cancer, lung disease, asthma or diabetes. These conditions are prevalent in Texas’ communities of color. Health disparities tend to align with both race and poverty, and the state of Texas has pursued policies that ensure those disparities endure. Poor, black, Latino, and rural residents who make up large shares of the state’s populations tend to lack access to high-quality doctors and care. Texas has refused to expand Medicaid to poor residents under the Affordable Care Act and only spends about $25 per person on public health a year, compared with $84 per person in New York. Texas is a social service wasteland. If it were not for the fantastic non-profit organizations in San Antonio and the county health system, the city could become the next epicenter.
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is calling for the Trump Administration to release daily racial and ethnic demographic data related to COVID-19 testing, disease burden, and patient outcomes in order to: (1) better inform a robust public health response in the Black community; and (2) ensure COVID-19 tests are not being administered or withheld in a racially discriminatory manner.
What the world needs now is a cure!