(Op-Ed) COVID and Social Justice: How African Americans Struggle on a Daily Basis
Updated: Jan 9
Co-Authors: Amira Toivonen, Alice Cheng, Uwumukiza Josiane, Tony Calderón Martínez (American School in Doha)
Editor: Sally French; Managing Editor: Stéphane Bincheng Mao
COVID-19 has shown itself to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for minorities. Even before this global epidemic, healthcare and economic inequalities have negatively affected the African American communty as a result of the long-standing biases in the United States.
Source: African-Americans and COVID-19 in Michigan, University of Michigan News
Many elements of our current healthcare and economic systems are fundementally unfair and discriminatory against minorities, espeically African Americans; these elements are being exposed now—during the harshest stages of this COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “age-adjusted hospitalization rates are highest among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic Black persons, followed by Hispanic or Latino persons (as of June 2020).”
Not only do African Americans have a higher probability of contracting COVID compared to their Caucasian counterparts, but they are constantly left behind in almost every domain of life, well before COVID-19 even existed. Even though the #BlackLivesMatter movement has gained tremendous momentum, there needs to be a discussion surrounding the cycles against POC that have taken place for centuries--and why the coronavirus is only exacerbating them.
In particular, COVID-19 has only aggravated the healthcare disparities already occurring against Black lives today. As the CDC states, “health differences between racial and ethnic groups result from inequities…that have persisted across generations.” Our historical perception of Blacks being ‘lesser than’ has inadvertently caused a wave of inequity that occurs at an urgent need: healthcare.
Medically, it has been systematically harder for African Americans to receive quality healthcare because of the implicit biases against them. The worst part of all of this? This racism occurs on an endless loop. Here’s an example of one of the many spirals they have to face in the healthcare spectrum:
Source: American School in Doha, Qatar
In order to prevent this healthcare racism from occurring on a global scale, there must be educational reform for those who are in positions of extreme privilege: according to Stephen B. Thomas, Ph.D., and Erica Casper, MA, “[i]t is sometimes easier to gloss over race and racism than to face them head-on and acknowledge how pervasive they are in today’s society.” Historically, the progress towards equitable medicine has been slow. Although there have been changes, these changes are marginal at best. In the wake of a global pandemic, it is the time to start taking action towards healthcare equality, especially as African Americans suffer through increasingly endless cycles waiting to be broken.
While COVID-19 has been impacting the economy rather harshly for many people, none are quite as impacted than small businesses, and especially Black-owned businesses. Small businesses struggle because they do not have easy access to money and loans because of the relatively unstable economic situation they are in compared to chain stores and large companies.
Black businesses lack the resources and cash to have their businesses adapt quickly to new formats such as an online store. When narrowing it down to Black businesses, they tend to have more hardship in getting loans due to racism, and often have less staff because of their limited funds, putting them already in a worse position compared to other small businesses.
Now, the virus is impacting all businesses, and governments have been providing some sort of aid to the economy. However, Black businesses seem to face problems receiving such federal stimulus programs. According to a poll conducted by Color of Change and UnidosUS, only 12 percent of Black and Hispanic business owners surveyed received the amount they had requested. The rest had received only a portion, less than a quarter, or even none and possibly have to close permanently, putting them in a dangerous financial position.
The pandemic is further putting the Black-owned businesses at risk. They already lack the scale and resources compared to others and also face various social injustices denying them access to financial aid. With COVID, they are truly in a precarious situation.
As a consequence of this pandemic, we can see how African Americans are being disportionately impacted in society. They are struggling to “survive” economically during these days, many have lost their jobs or closed their businesses, causing low income. For them, this is more than just a pandemic, it is a fight for equitable healthcare, sustainable income, and a more equal life. In the U.S. we are seeing people of color speaking up and being heard, demanding changes to this racially-unfair justice system—and they can only hope that those in positions of the privileged will listen.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of ECC, and our publication of opinions alone is not an endorsement of them.