Racial Health And Economic Disparities Are Two Sides Of The Same Coin

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Above photo: Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette.

Covid-19 continues to aggravate deeply embedded inequalities.

We need bold policy solutions aimed at bridging the racial wealth divide now more than ever.

In Baltimore, like in the rest of the United States, Covid-19 exacerbates racial inequality and economic marginalization. The legacy of discrimination and the continued corruption and disenfranchisement take shape in the city’s biggest issues – homelessness, food insecurity, crime, poverty, and lack of access to resources. Covid-19 magnifies these issues and shows that they cannot be fixed without systemic change.

The Baltimore Brothers, a nonprofit organization serving the city’s most vulnerable people, have been providing food and necessary resources to the communities who aren’t reached by local agencies or state government. After a devastating shooting on March 17, the Brothers fed the community for 3 days straight after watching the city fail to provide any kind of social aid.

“Nobody showed up,” Andrew Knox, a leader of Baltimore Brothers, said. “No CPS showed up, nobody responded but law enforcement. It became a criminal or police matter, and not a social aid matter…There is some aid happening in Baltimore, but some communities, who really need it, are not receiving aid. High-crime areas are not being served the same way.”

Knox’s comments speak to the systemic issues that low-income communities of color regularly face. Millions of Americans live just one paycheck away from financial disaster. Black and Latinx communities are particularly economically vulnerable thanks to the barriers that keep them from accumulating the wealth of their non-Hispanic white counterparts. We only have to look back 11 years to understand the effect of the Covid-19 economic downturn for financially vulnerable communities.

The 2008 economic collapse and ensuing recession disproportionately affected Black and Latinx communities, both in its occurrence and in the recovery. In 2009, the unemployment rate for all Americans was 10 percent, but for African Americans, it exceeded 16 percent. Wealth among Black and Latinx communities severely dropped from 2005 to 2009, with each group seeing a 53 percent and 66 percent decline in wealth respectively. Ten years later, Black communities have just again returned to their pre-recession median income, but high rates of unemployment coupled with declining wealth and low homeownership rates perpetuate financial precarity.

The coronavirus crisis will also not impact everyone evenly. Stark differences between work privileges have been revealed – 37 percent of Asian Americans and 30 percent of white people can work remotely, but only 20 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of Hispanic people have that ability. Black and Latinx people are more likely to work in lower-paid, consumer facing jobs, leaving them at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19.

Thanks to the systemic injustices of racial and economic inequality, pre-existing health conditions among African Americans, such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma, compound with Covid-19 to hit African Americans harder during this crisis. In Chicago, Black residents make up more than half of all Covid-19 cases and more than 70 percent of Covid-19 related deaths, but only account for 30 percent of the population.

Health concerns make up one side of the Covid-19 coin while economic decline constructs the other. Economic researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, predict that the economic effects of Covid-19 will lead us to something much deeper than the Great Recession. The Economic Policy Institute predicts a 15 percent unemployment rate by July 2020, and as the Black unemployment rate is usually double the white unemployment rate, this means that Black communities are looking at unemployment rates of at least 25 percent.

As Covid-19 continues to aggravate deeply embedded social and economic inequalities, we now, more than ever, need bold policy solutions aimed at bridging the racial wealth divide. The country must stop advancing trillion dollar packages that disproportionately benefit large businesses and stabilize industries that have done little to move past the racial inequality of old.

Our 2019 report, Ten Solutions to Bridge the Racial Wealth Divide, proposed bold bottom-up policy solutions to rebuild the economy after decades of regressive, trickle down economics. Universal public health care for all, full employment, increased affordable housing, and a racial wealth audit on federal legislation are the types of investments the country must make to bridge the racial wealth divide. It will be a tragedy if the best the country can hope for coming out of Covid-19 is a return to the economics of inequality and social marginalization that historically has characterized the United States.

  • 0040

    The so called lefts credulity and willingness to clamber onto the Corona-virus bandwagon , to buttress old existing grievances , when it is simply a form of flu and a mild one at that , now already subsiding globally, certainly has made life hard for the many of who live on the margins, and will continue to do so as that lie takes on a life of its own and becomes reality and a justification for all sorts of punitive actions and reactions. A great leap toward abject slavery has just been accomplished.

  • SCM

    If you are a Democrat you want the economy kept closed in hopes that a bad economy with people out of work and small businesses ruined will defeat Trump in the election. They are not left. They are Democrats. It’s about power, getting there and staying there. That the Democrats are not left is no more evident than looking at thier super-majority states with no UHC, hoards homeless, blighted cities.

    I’m a leftist so I don’t vote Democrat but Green.

  • jim james

    You’re lumping Democrats/Progressives in with the Left.

  • 0040

    Simply look up the flu stats going back a decade and that this years strain , aka Corona-virus has been milder in numbers of deaths , rigged stats aside, than previous years becomes obvious. Your pulling that 10% figure out of your ass . if you actually parse the stats or even read the reports the number is always less than .1% Why a flu epidemic wiped out 100000 Americans stateside in 1968-69 flu season and went unreported across America at that time is a better question ? Death due to flu [Corona-virus ] has been around 50000 this year in America slightly less than usual . By the way treatment for the black death/plague during the dark ages involved gathering in churches and praying to god because the authorities /churchmen knew best how to treat it ?

  • kevinzeese

    How many deaths before you realize the obvious – this is not the seasonal flu. The US will break 100,000 deaths this week. If we do not put in place adequate public health measures and reopen the economy, we will be at over 200,000 by October.

  • 0040

    No it won’t. Read all the stats slowly and in depth , remove your political bias shades while doing so. It is hard to read while bouncing along on a band wagon full of panic stricken fools , perhaps you should climb down from it first ? You are abetting the for profit healthcare crowd with your current positions. A pandemic may be on the way but this ain’t it ! Conversely authoritarians of every ilk are having spasms of ecstasy inventing and enforcing ridiculous regulations while their sticky fingers mine the taxpayers wallets.

  • jim james

    For starters, coronavirus is far deadlier than ‘regular flu numbers.’

    In fact, if you go by the CDC numbers, roughly 50-80,000 die from flu AND pneumonia every year. The CDC lumps these two in together. We all know pneumonia kills, not the flu, so even if you argue 1/2 of said deaths is attributable to the flu you’re only looking at 25-40,000 flue deaths per year. Coronavirus has wiped out over 100,000 in roughly two months.

    Oh yeah, the numbers on Sweden come straight out of google. Type in ‘Sweden’s covid-19 numbers,’ and you’ll get the info. immediately, roughly 30,000 cases and over 3,000 dead. You can quibble with the numbers all you want but that’s the numbers we have. You can do the math. It’s even higher than 10%.

  • 0040

    Baa ! said the sheeple as they scurried down the chute into the abattoir