I continue to read about the experience of this pandemic for many African-Americans. As predicted, the disparities in so many systems are exacerbating the impact of COVID-19.
Many Black workers hold down jobs in the “essential” fields, mostly on the intensive labor end of the spectrum: health care, maintenance, grocery store clerks, bus drivers, refuse disposal, etc. And they keep showing up, often at great risk to themselves and their families. The cynical response of some white folks is to critique them for clustering on public buses, or sneer at their hesitance to wear masks. Just read the articles below to understand what motivates those actions.
How utterly disheartening this crisis must be for Black America!
And yet, I’ve learned over the past few years about the astonishing resilience of Black cultures. For me, one of the most striking examples came in 2016: The day after Donald Trump was elected Angela Davis was in ROC to speak at East High School. This woman, known to many whites as a rabble-rousing, law-breaking, murdering left-over from the 60’s, is in fact a noted researcher, scholar, author and speaker. I went, assuming that I was heading into a wake, anticipating an atmosphere of despondency or outrage or defeatism.
I walked into a crowd of close to 1000, probably 90% Black people. At first, I just stood at the back, awed by scenes of people greeting each other with warmth, smiles, affection, camaraderie, even humor. As I moved in, I was greeted warmly by the folks I knew, and they didn’t give even a hint of despair! I realized I and most of my white friends were far more shocked or devastated than they!
As Angela Davis spoke – strong, upbeat, clear, rooted – I began to understand. She laid out a message of perspective and determination. As I heard her:
“We’re not at all surprised. We knew this was brewing. We’ve been through this before. And we will get through this too! This is what we do!”
As I see so many Black essential workers or victims being interviewed, I hear echoes of that same determination, the grit born of years pushing through challenge after challenge. “It’s what we do!”
There is massive evidence of the systemic disparities and their cost. Below, I give you a tiny sampling of that evidence. The larger point is that the systems which were already slanted are now precipitously tipped, and the impact is lethal:
“Rolling Through the Pandemic” “In Detroit, virus or no virus, many people have a job they need to get to and one way to get there: The bus.” NYTimes
“Let’s get serious about attacking the digital divide” “As the coronavirus crisis dramatically disrupts our lives, educators know that too many students – particularly those from lower-income households and students of color – will be left out of the heroic efforts to move classrooms online.” NY Daily News
“For Black Men, Fear That Masks Will Invite Racial Profiling” They fear that “to cover their faces in public could expose them to harassment from the police.” NYTimes
“COVID-19: Investing in black lives and livelihoods” “…Black Americans will experience a disproportionate share of the disruption—from morbidity and mortality to unemployment and bankruptcy.” McKinsey & Company
“Black-Owned Businesses Could Face Hurdles in Federal Aid Program” “Minority business owners have always struggled to secure bank loans. Now, many banks want to deal only with existing customers when making loans through the government’s $349 billion aid package.” NYTimes
“The Pathology of Racism is Making the Pathology of COVID-19 Worse” “…disproportionately killing Black people because the whole system is worse for us.” Washington Post
“COVID-19 and the Collapse of America’s Welfare State” “In the United States, people are expected to survive on their own. Those who cannot, are often left to sink.” NYTimes
“Mapping racial inequity amid COVID-19 underscores policy discriminations against Black Americans” “…without an understanding of the policy contexts that have shaped conditions in Black-majority neighborhoods, one may assume the rapid spread of the coronavirus there is caused by the individual behaviors of residents.” The Brookings Institution
“America Set Up Black Communities To Be Harder Hit by COVID-19” “The COVID-19 pandemic is piling on top of a litany of health inequalities in America to kill a disproportionate number of African Americans.” The Verge
“The Racial Time Bomb in the COVID-19 Crisis” “People like to say, ‘we’re all in this together,’ but black people have every right to respond, ‘But will we all emerge from it together?’” Charles Blow – NYTimes
“The Virus + Black = Double Jeopardy” My prior blog post
Now, to move beyond either guilt or compassion, to move with the resilience and determination characteristic of Black history, how can we respond?
I’ll repeat the questions from that prior blog post. In this pandemic:
- How can I avoid taking advantage of my race and wealth privileges in an unfair way?
- How can I spot and call out the subtle, insidious privileges that benefit me and my family?
- How can I be a part of easing the extraordinary burden this pandemic is placing on my Black brothers and sister?
- How can I share what I’ve acquired or hoarded to ride out this virus?
- What Black-led organizations are responding to this crisis, and in what ways can I support those efforts – in person, financially.
Contribute to the Community Crisis Fund, a combined effort of United Way of Greater Rochester and The Community Foundation, specifically focused on responses to the pandemic as it impacts the most vulnerable community members.
April 28 6:00 pm: Webinar: “Understanding Structural Racism II: Why COVID-19 is disproportionately killing Black Americans” by 540WMain.
Connect with St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center – dozens of opportunities for volunteering – or donating.
Contribute to Central Church of Christ, assisting people in need. Minister Clifford Florence (585) 202-9651.
Follow on Facebook: United Christian Leadership Ministries for important activities and issues.
Sundays Webinar series by Nanette Massey: “Venturing Beyond the Race Echo Chamber” Topic discussion and conversation.
Get a subscription to Minority Reporter – to help support it, and to be informed on possibilities for action. Excellent source of local news as it impacts minority communities.
Follow on Facebook: Take It Down Planning Committee for important activities and issues.
Contact Action for a Better Community (ABC) for information on local volunteer opportunities and important local news.