I am not surprised to learn that Black and brown people are being hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and neither should anyone else be.
We have an overwhelming collection of evidence from epidemics, pandemics and natural disasters to show us that people who were facing the most significant social, economic and health challenges BEFORE the catastrophic events are those who will suffer disproportionately more as a result of the event.
Our country’s continuing history of structural and institutional racism, that in many places has gutted the Health and Human Services infrastructure of communities of color, the poor, and the socially disenfranchised, has contributed greatly to the disproportionate incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and other morbidities that in time of catastrophic events like this are magnified.
Let’s not fool ourselves. Yes, COVID-19 is an equal opportunity killer — it doesn’t care if you are black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat — but it is also an “opportunistic” killer. It will and has preyed more on those who were least equipped prior to its appearance to survive its wrath.
As we look to target communities who need our help today during this outbreak, let’s not forget those communities when we emerge from this pandemic. They will need our attention and investment even more.
This will not be the last catastrophic event many of us will see. I hope in future events we are prepared to address them without the specter of disparity and inequality peering over our shoulders.
That’s a surprise I would welcome with open arms.