The Real Reason Why Blacks Are Susceptible to COVID-19
By Cash Michaels
Racism, and our environments hold the keys.
In the eyes of the national media, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowly, but surely, evolved into a Black people’s “problem,” and many African-Americans don’t like it.
Reports from states like Louisiana, where 70 percent of the COVID-19 deaths as of last week, have been Black, and the major mid-west city of Chicago, which logged over 9100 cases as of Monday of the week, with, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, more than half of them Black.
Here in North Carolina, which, at press time, is expected to tally over 5,000 confirmed novel coronavirus cases by the end of the week, if not sooner, African-Americans comprise 38% of those cases (and 39% of the 90 deaths thus far).
And the NCNAACP has filed suit against the state to release nonviolent prison inmates now because of the danger of infection in close quarters. A COVID-19 outbreak was reported at the Smithfield prison in Johnston County, and at least three prisoners at the federal prison in Butner reportedly contracted the virus last week.
Many medical professionals have noted that those people with comprised immune systems - the body’s natural defense system that fights off disease - are highly susceptible to the physical ravages of COVID-19 that can result in high fevers, corrupted respiratory breathing and, in many cases, death. So African-Americans already suffering from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and other traditional maladies associated with low-income living, have fallen victim.
But why, and can the environments that typically produce these dire results, be turned around?
According to social scientists, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed, without doubt, the nation’s “dirty little secret” about how it treats it’s poor, and the environmental and structural conditions America forces Black and other communities of color to live in.
Crowded, isolated, older urban neighborhoods that are literal food and grocery store deserts, where families are unable to access fresh, nutritious produce, meats and dairy; and cannot even service pharmacies for important medication to properly manage health conditions.
Beyond older community centers and parks, few, if any facilities for the purpose of holistic exercising and programs. Very little constructive exercise programming for young people!
Communities deliberately located near toxic chemical dumps, or are filled with light levels of toxic old lead paint still prominent in the housing and playground equipment.
Blacks and other poor people of color who live in these communities are largely not health-insured (though they probably need access to appropriate health coverage more than the average American), and are overrepresented in low wage/low benefits ‘essential jobs,’ like factory workers, janitorial services, bus and delivery drivers, waitresses, etc.
And now, with COVID-19, forcing these poor workers to report to work, despite overall ‘shelter-in-place’ restrictions for public safety, the risk of being infected is compounded, compared to the rest of the population.
“These communities, structurally, they’re breeding grounds for the transmission of the disease,” Sharelle Barber, assistant research professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University in Philadelphia, told the NY Times last week. “It’s not biological. It’s really these existing structural inequalities that are going to shape the racial inequalities in this pandemic.”
Dr. Joseph L. Graves, Jr. professor of biological science at NC A&T University in Greensboro, was even more blunt in his perspective.
“The effect of this kind of pandemic is going to be even more devastating on the poorest people in this nation, he told Roland Martin Unfiltered recently.
“One of the unintended side-effects of income inequality is creating a reservoir of …homeless people, and incarcerated people, who are always going to be the target of these viral and bacterial diseases, because of the conditions that they have to live in. But those people also come in contact with services where rich people are. So if [rich people] think they are going to be safe, you know, cloister themselves in their own communities, while allowing the majority of the [poor] people in this country to go homeless or under-employed, or thrown in jail, then they’ve got things absolutely wrong,” said Dr. Graves.” It’s even in their best interest to have places or people to live…people with employment that is meaningful.”