Pandemics Are Not An Equalizer
I've heard a lot of people say over the last few months that this pandemic has been a real equalizer. That it's highlighting our shared humanity and bringing people together even though we physically have to stay apart. That might be happening in some places in this country, but I can tell you one place it's not happening and that's in Black and Brown communities across this country.
If anything, this pandemic has shown the stark racial inequities in our country, in our healthcare system, and in our economy. Plastered all across the news a few weeks ago were the startling numbers of African Americans hospitalized and dying from COVID-19 and it was reported with some kind of incredulousness, like the anchors just couldn't fathom that so many more Black people in the US were dying.
Um, hello? African Americans are disproportionately more likely to be uninsured or under-insured in this country. They are more likely to suffer from diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Historically speaking, black and brown people in this country have been guinea pigs for doctors wanting to try out new medicines and test the effects of dangerous substances, like mercury and radiation, on human beings. Their bodies have been displayed in medical colleges and museums around the country, without permission, for the benefit of wealthy medical schools and elite echelons of society.
And as if that weren't enough of a disadvantage, multiple studies have shown that when all other factors are equal (income, gender, employment status, etc) African Americans are more likely to die at the hands of doctors because they are not believed when they complain of symptoms. OF COURSE black people are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than White people. The system is not set up for them to survive. If they even go to the doctor because with the nefarious history of the medical field in this country, why would you trust the system in the first place?
I am not suggesting that there's a conspiracy theory out there to commit genocide by COVID-19. What I am suggesting is that racism is alive and well in this country. It has infiltrated every system and every institution in ways that have become so normative we don't even see them anymore. So of course, when a medical crisis faces us all, it is those who were more vulnerable to begin with that take the brunt of the damage.
I am so angry at this country and its blindness. It's utter refusal to see the long and damaging history of white supremacy and racism. As I write this, Ahmaud Arbery's name is finally reaching the mainstream media. A man who was followed by two white men in his own neighborhood while out for a jog, assaulted and murdered. But we were so busy fussing about the White House's racism for banning flights from China and covering idiots protesting government buildings because they need their freedom of haircuts and manicures that we failed to notice the modern day lynching of an innocent black man in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23rd.
Pandemics might equalize the world in the sense that they don't discriminate on who they infect. But this pandemic has highlighted the stark inequalities that exist in our healthcare system. It's highlighted how quickly we lose sight of major human rights atrocities so that we can complain about homeschooling our kids or not being able to go to the bar with friends. You know who else won't be doing that? Ahmaud Arbery
I get it, a lot of people will probably read this wondering why I'm talking about the pandemic and the murder of another Black man in the US. How are these related? Is this a stretch? But it's not, because the one thing both of these stories have in common is that they highlight the stench of racism in this country. There are a lot of things I talk about in this blog that I see as grey areas in life or in our society, but racism isn't one of them. And I am ashamed that in my circle of people I haven't seen more White people calling out the racism within our healthcare system, our economy, our justice system, and every other institution that poses a threat to black and brown bodies solely because they are black and brown. We need to do better.