Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Had our nation truly learned from the catastrophic effects of inequality on black and brown communities, it would have been realized that even through the presence of equality, inequity still runs rampant. But instead, minorities were told to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, get off their asses and work hard in pursuit of the infamous American Dream. Programs and policies were needed to counteract tremendous inequity in low-income minority communities and take action to fix problems that our decadent democracy had created but instead, people were told to chase an illusion instead. Those same people are dying at accelerated rates at the hands of COVID-19.
Equal and fair are not the same. The virus has shown us that much. If equality was the answer to create a post-racial society and fix all the damage, certain questions must be considered. For example, why in Chicago are African Americans, who account for one-third of the city’s population, 70% of those who succumb to the virus? And why in New York City are Latinos only a quarter of the population and yet almost half of the fatality rate? And why do statistics from states such as South Carolina, Michigan and California follow similar trends? It is because the true nature of damage caused to black and brown communities was never properly addressed nor understood, resulting in even more societal devastation.
Nearly every condition that would possibly exacerbate the effects of the coronavirus plague black and brown populations nationwide. Preexisting conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes; contact with other people and poor healthcare to name a few, are all conditions that would enable the coronavirus to wreak havoc and heighten the fatality rate, which it inevitably has. The reason that these conditions are more pervasive in minority communities is rooted in housing and economic disparities, food deserts and job discrimination, which are all byproducts of inequity.
Blacks and Latinos are more likely to work low-income essential service jobs where they are unable to work remotely, heightening the probability to contract the virus and take it home. Food deserts are also prevalent in low income minority neighborhoods, attributing to negative health conditions. While there is a liquor store on almost every corner, you’d be hard pressed to find a WholeFoods or organic supermarket. There is also a fundamental lack of healthcare available to minority communities as well, especially in the places worst affected by COVID-19. Detroit only has four hospitals, and New York has lost two dozen over a 30-year period, no doubt attributing to the disadvantage in dealing with an influx of black and Latino patients in the two hotspot locations.
The conditions of these communities were fostered in ignorance, government inaction and miseducation. They did not go unreported nor did they exist without widespread knowledge. It was through willful neglect by the government and public office representatives that these issues festered, evolved and spread to economically cripple their citizens. I suppose there were other problems that required the government’s attention. Perhaps $1.25 trillion allocated to our defense budget was more important than solving domestic problems that were self-inflicted that would cost only a fraction of that. The novel coronavirus added to a long list of problems that now has threatened to decimate and wipe out black and brown people across the country, and now our government has blood on its hands that it no longer can ignore. This is not a black problem. This is not a Hispanic problem. This is not even a minority problem. This is an American problem. One that could have been prevented, saved lives and rebuilt a lot of burned bridges that remain in ruin.
It should not have taken biological genocide to prove how deadly inequity truly is for minorities. It is too late to stop inequity’s long-term effects on the coronavirus, for they have already taken root; but there is a beacon of hope that offers America a chance to be redeemed. For all we know, America will not change and our communities will continue to suffer in silence, but perhaps we will learn and improve. Only time will tell.
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Mason Holland is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.