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How Covid-19 Disproportionately Affects People Of Color

(illustration by Janessa Muniz) COVID-19 is a deadly virus that has the chance to infect you no matter your race. But the sociological effects of the virus are a different story. Over the summer, we as Americans have seen the effects of racial bias in our society, and COVID-19 is no exception. The racism that […]

(illustration by Janessa Muniz)

COVID-19 is a deadly virus that has the chance to infect you no matter your race. But the sociological effects of the virus are a different story. Over the summer, we as Americans have seen the effects of racial bias in our society, and COVID-19 is no exception. The racism that the pandemic has exposed are long standing systemic inequalities.

To truly understand why the COVID-19 virus is disproportionately affecting people of color, we have to look at the history of racism in every facet of our nation. While there are many different aspects of our society that factor into effects of the virus on people of color, systemic issues in the job market and the healthcare system are what CB Black Student Union leaders Faith Mucheru (’21) and Simone Gandy (’21) think are the most pressing. 

“Jobs are a jumping off point to a majority of the systemic issues that make people of color especially vulnerable to Covid,” Faith shares.

Navigating the pandemic has been challenging for everyone in so many different ways, but the ability to work from home is not accessible for everyone. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the majority of essential workers are made up of people of color — 50% of workers in food and agriculture and 53% in industrial, commercial, and residential facilities and services. Working essential jobs puts these people at a greater risk for infection. Not only are the people at work more susceptible to the virus, but so are the people they come home to as-well. Additionally, people of color are disproportionately in crowded living conditions because of racial residential segregation

In addition to working jobs that are deemed as essential on our society, people of color face other unfair disadvantages while on the job.

“A lot of these essential jobs are things like agriculture or retail, and those do not tend to be high paying jobs,” Faith says. “This means that having less access to proper healthcare and quality and affordable living or even the nutrition needed to support the healthy body.”

These essential workers are often working low paying jobs, and in these jobs, people of color are less likely to have access to things like health insurance and paid sick leave. Additionally, 78% of Latino workers and 70% who are Black are stressed over their job safety and security compared to 58% of white workers.

While job security is guaranteed to almost no one, job loss has disproportionately affected people of color during this pandemic. 13% of Black Americans, 12.8% of Hispanic Americans, and 11.1% of Asian Americans have lost their jobs from February to July, in contrast 8.9% of White Americans who lost their jobs.

“It’s a paradox because the way everything is set up puts people of color in a position where they need the most healthcare and yet have the least means of acquiring it,” Simone says.

Issues leading to the racial disparities in healthcare are deeply embedded in systems in our society. Even before the pandemic hit, people of color are put at a disadvantage in the US healthcare system. In 2014, Black males and females had a lower average life expectancy than that of white males and females, which is a product of racial inequalities in economics that create a difficult path for people of color to attain health insurance.

“Universal healthcare would not only help minorities, but the nation as a whole, and we would like to see that in the future of America,” Faith says.

Universal healthcare would greatly benefit people of color. 10.6 % of African Americans, 16.1% of Hispanics, 7.3 % of Asian Americans, and 14.9% of Native Americans were reportedly uninsured in 2017, compared to 5.9% of White Americans.

Racial disparities in healthcare, the labor industry, and many other aspects of our society are revealed through the way people of color have been disproportionately and negatively affected. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that, compared to white people, Black Americans have a 1.4x higher Covid-19 case rate, Hispanic or Latino Americans have a 1.7x higher case rate, Asian Americans have a 0.1x higher case rate, and Native Americans have a 1.8x higher case rate.

In addition to higher case rates for people of color, data collected from the APM Research Lab through December 8th shows that Native Americans, Black Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, and Latino Americans experience the highest death rates from coronavirus.

The clear racial biases in our society are shown through the effects of this pandemic, and the need for change and evolution is prevalent now more than ever.

“As a community we need to stay informed, do our research, not spread information that one it unsure of, keep others informed with fact based information, and be considerate of the people who are being effected by these systemic issues,” Simone says.

“It is crucial to acknowledge and educate the ignorant that the world is working against people of color,” Faith adds. “In order to close this [disproprotionate] gap within society, we need [Americans] to be address [these issues] with empathy, facts, and determination to fix these issues.”

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