Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Coronomics: Why Black Communities Are Getting Hit Hard

     As COVID-19 wrecks havoc around the world, it is hitting Black and Brown communities especially hard.  When the outbreak started there were memes and posts about how Black folks were naturally resistant because of our melanin. Well, as Maury would say, that was a lie. It turns out that in cities across the US Black communities are getting hit the hardest. Why is that? Here are my top 5 reasons...

5.   Lack of Affordable healthcare, access to good healthcare and racial bias inherent in the healthcare system. Each of those deserves it's own number but I wanted to list them together. You have a large portion of the Black community who work in low wage jobs that either don't offer healthcare at all or it's so expensive that it's unaffordable. Even with the advent of Obamacare, healthcare is still unaffordable for millions of people. The lack of good affordable healthcare is compounded by a lack of good healthcare access. Many of our Black neighborhoods don't have doctors offices, We have clinics, but not a lot of private physicians Those two previous factors are once again magnified by racial bias in the healthcare system. As a rule Black folks don't get the same level of care as our white counterparts. We don't get pain meds at the same level as our white counterparts, our issues and complaints aren't taken as seriously as our white counterparts etc. 

4. Black communities have a larger reliance on public transportation.  It's hard to practice social distancing when you're riding a crowded bus. If a bus is 60% full it's almost impossible to stay 6ft away from anybody on the bus or subway if you're in a larger city.

3. Many people in the Black community have lower paying, hourly jobs, that don't offer paid sick time. That means many folks HAVE to work every day or their bills won't get paid. If they don't work, they don't eat. It's that simple. These are jobs, that because of the pandemic, we now consider essential. These are jobs you can't work from home. 

2. The vast majority of Black and Brown folks live in segregated neighborhoods that have been disenfranchised and have seen decades of disinvestment. Our neighborhoods often lack enough grocery stores, pharmacies, and the infrastructure needed to help people shelter in place or practice social distancing. When you have an entire part of town that has only one grocery store or pharmacy, social distancing is pretty hard to practice. 

1. The number one reason is the invisible thread that ties 5 through 2 together...Racism. The lack of investment and infrastructure in Black communities was intentional. It was by design. The practice of redlining meant that many Blacks couldn't get home loans or move outside of Black neighborhoods. In fact, redlining help create the Black inner cities and neighborhoods you have today. Which in turn made it easier for municipalities to underinvest in our neighborhoods. That underinvestment led to food deserts, assisted in moving jobs out of the city centers to the suburbs, and an underinvestment in community health. Redlining also had the double effect of driving many local business out of our neighborhoods by depressing property values. This suppressed Black wealth and coupled with the death of American manufacturing and other jobs leaving the city center, curtailed Black buying power and wealth. Which means many businesses in the Black neighborhood left or went out of business. 

Now add the fact that Black soldiers coming back from WWII were routinely denied home loans under the G.I. Bill. That cut off access to wealth and mobility to hundreds of thousands of Black families. Then Jim Crow meant that once again hundreds of thousands of Black men and women couldn't get jobs that they were more than qualified for. You add redlining to Jim Crow and Black soldiers unable to get the G.I. bill and you have what you see today in many Black Neighborhoods.

But Racism isn't done yet. Because after Jim Crow "officially" ended, the prison industrial complex took it's place. Then the war on drugs further decimated and weakend Black communities. 

Fast forward to 2020 and the effects of past racist and current racist policies are magnifying the impact of the Coronavirus on our Black communities. Study after study has shown that there is a deep racial bias in healthcare that extends back centuries. Our lack of access to wealth building tools and access to higher paying jobs means that we are stuck in jobs that don't pay enough, offer any real benefits, and are often dead in. But this is nothing new. We've been in this predicament since our ancestors first came to America. 

Make no mistake. The missteps by the current administration are having a significant impact on our communities. But Racism is the gift that just keeps on giving. 

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