We are all connected to everyone and everything in the universe. Therefore, everything one does as an individual affects the whole. All thoughts, words, images, prayers, blessings, and deeds are listened to by all that is.” ~ Serge Kahili King
Nothing could describe the above quote like COVID-19. On December 31, 2019, the WHO China Country Office was notified of 44 cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause originating in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province of China.1 11 of the cases were severe and on the next day, 33 of the patients were in stable condition. After some research from the local authorities it was believed that the live exotic animal and seafood market called Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market sold one or all the individuals’ bat meat infected with SARS-CoV-2(virus related to bats) the virus that has caused COVID-19 and the subsequent worldwide pandemic2. The market was shut down on the same day (January 1, 2020). 11 days later, a 61 year old man who frequented the market was the first person to die from what was then an unknown virus.
What is now known as COVID-19 could have somewhat been contained within the Province or at least inside the very large country of China with its 1.4 billion people if it were not for China’s biggest holidays that caused millions of people to travel throughout the country and then return to their homes, many infected with SARS.
As of June 24, 2020, in the United States, there were 2.3 million who contracted the virus and 120,000 who have died from complications directly related to it. According to APM Research Lab, an independent organization, 1 in 1,500 of the 120,000 deaths have been African Americans compared to 1 in 3,600 of White Americans.3 There have been many excuses to why African Americans were not surviving the virus. The main 3 rationalizations are that the victims had health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity but those are just that …excuses. This rational is faulty and makes no statistically sense because 65% of ALL White Americans are obese,12% have diabetes and 46% have high blood pressure. The point is that many White Americans who had the same preexisting conditions as African Americans before contracting COVID survived it. So what are the real reasons???
There are mainly 2 :#1 When finally implemented, public testing sites were placed in predominantly white affluent areas #2 Some African Americans hold “Essential jobs” that are not in the health profession that bring them into contact with a myriad of people every day, some who could be a carrier of the virus. For this post, we will focus on the first valid reason why so many African Americans died during this pandemic and unfortunately it has an old familiar “ring” to it: ongoing systematic racism.
Following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police officer, millions of people around the U.S and the world began to protest in what has become the largest protest in United States history. Between 15 and 26 million people have come together, most peaceably, some destructively, to express their dissent against racism in the form of police brutality. With the advent of social media and the placement of video recorders on cell phones, the world has been illuminated to what African Americans have known now for 400 years,racism is “alive and well”.
It manifests in many different ways placing the lives of Black people ,their health and well-being at risk. On May 29,2020, just 48 hours after the George Floyd protest began, the country’s leading medical organizations, the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association formally recognized racism itself as a public health issue.
Racism is the only explanation of why any city in the U.S. would have more testing sites in one demographic than another during a pandemic. On May 25 in Dallas, Texas there were 22 testing sites in “Whiter” areas compared to just 7 in less white areas.6 Even as late as July 1, Indianapolis, Indiana’s Marion County had only 3 of the 30 testing sites in the county for predominantly black neighborhoods because the rest were given to areas with more white residents7 and then 1 of the 3 sites, after just a few weeks, closed. To quote APHA Past-President Camara Phyllis Jones, MD,MPH, PhD , "Racism…., that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources." This is not just African American history but United States history.
During the COVID -19 pandemic, the Black Community has suffered greatly because of racism that manifested by our government, whether state or federal, by not distributing all of the testing sites evenly depending on the number of the population and not the race of the neighborhood. This and many other manifestations of injustice must not be tolerated. We must learn how to “stand against” it continually however and whenever it rises. Whether we “stand” by peaceful protesting, “stand” by lowering all of our own personal health risks or by actually standing in line to vote nationally and/or for our local government officials, we must do all we can to empower ourselves and the next generation.