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COVID-19 Reflections: A Pandemic Squared
I grieve for us. The COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the country. In true dystopian style, roads are empty, unemployment has skyrocketed and hospitals need refrigerated trucks to store bodies. This virus has been referred to as a great equalizer; It’s supposed to affect us all in the same way with no regard for race, religion or gender. We’ve now reaching more than 105,00 lives lost due to COVID-19.
Part of my job here at NewWave, a healthcare IT company, is storytelling. I create and design artifacts and collateral that share the story of our innovative work within the healthcare realm. I’ve always been fascinated by stories and how a well told story can change life; but I can’t help feeling overwhelmed by the story unfolding before my eyes.
As a black woman I have also experienced the profound grief specific to watching Black Americans die Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at significantly higher rates than any other group. Our community is experiencing a pandemic within a pandemic. Inequality can be so cruel.
Even still this inequality is not new; from Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were harvested and regrown without her consent to the Aids epidemic which, though African Americans make up only 13% of the US population, they accounted for 39% of all AIDS diagnoses and make up 52% of Aids deaths nationwide. Let’s not forget the way Black women are 4x more likely to die in childbirth even the educated and upper class are dismissed and ignored. Many established American systems lend themselves to inequality and the healthcare system has proven itself to be no different. Our disproportionately higher death rates is tied to “decades and centuries of structural inequity.”
Who can be shocked that 40% of COVID deaths in Michigan are Black Americans despite them only comprising 14% of the state’s population. While the argument for impoverished communities lacking the resources to support their sick sounds promising, it leaves no explanation for Prince Georges County, one of the wealthiest black counties in the nation, experiencing similarly shocking death rates from COVID.
Equality feels almost out of reach as the unemployment rate for African Americans reached an astounding 19% in March. As states look to reopen and return to whatever is left of normalcy, services workers, often people of color, remain on the front lines facing potential infection and risking their lives.
I am grieved that black Americans aren’t treated as equals. Systems have been put in place that leave us unequipped to pursue health physically, mentally and spiritually. Black Americans deserve equality and justice; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as was penned in the Declaration of Independence so long ago. COVID-19 has become a catalyst to shine a light on many of the ways our systems are failing. The time has come for society to evolve and uphold the principals we claim to value. A Revolution is on its way.