The National Urban League’s 2020 State of Black America report, “Unmasked,” which matches the nationwide mood for serious introspection and exposing the human toll and economic devastation of the global pandemic, focuses on delving into data behind the coronavirus’s impact on the African American community.
Because of the need for immediate and long-term action to mend the effects of COVID-19 on the African American community, the first step is recognizing that the health system in American is “broken.”
This is the conclusion of NUL’s annual report released Thursday by National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial, who used current events to paint a disturbing image of what’s going on today in this country regarding African Americans.
“An America in 2020 is an America unmasked,” Morial told The Washington Informer. “We have lost ground in many areas, especially when you have 150,000 dead in this country because of the coronavirus — and 40 percent of the people are Black.”
NUL, founded in 1910, has released a “State of Black America” report since 1976, including essays and data by authors such as civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and Alexis McGill Johnson, who was recently named president of Planned Parenthood.
This year’s report, which is available at stateofblackamerica.org, contains George Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” and the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
The NUL also released its annual Equality Index, which compares the plight of African Americans and Hispanics to whites.
“This report defines structural racism. If people want to know what structural racism is, it is the fact that these disparities in the 15 years that we’ve been releasing these statistics, in this fashion, have changed very little,” Morial said.
The report includes a section titled “Lessons Learned,” in which Morial lays out numerous points for people to think about, including:
– Racism is the pandemic within the pandemic. The massive demonstrations against police racism and brutality that erupted after George Floyd’s death did not lead to spikes in coronavirus infection as many had feared. But those who went on to protest were willing to accept the risk.
– Bias in health care is both explicit and implicit. Black people with COVID-19 symptoms in February and March were less likely to get tested or treated than white patients. Studies showed that doctors downplayed Black patients’ complaints of pain, prescribed weaker pain medication, and withheld cardiac treatments from Black patients who needed them.
– Leadership matters. States where governors ignored scientific advice and lifted stay-at-home orders and other safety measures saw dramatic spikes in coronavirus infections.
– Americans have enormous capacity for compassion. College students volunteered to replace sidelined “Meals on Wheels” drivers. Owners of empty RVs offered them to health care workers who needed to isolate.
– Black communities never fully recovered from the Great Recession. Even at record lows, in recent years the Black unemployment rate consistently remained twice as high as the rate for whites.
– Racism threatens our national security. “If Americans refuse to meaningfully address race relations, the United States will grow weaker and less effective, both at home and as an international actor,” Los Angeles Urban League President Michael Lawson and international policy expert Jerrold D. Green wrote in May.
Meanwhile, the League’s State of the Union 2020 Census report in June warned that Black communities stand to lose billions of dollars and their rightful political representation if something is not done quickly to overcome delays caused by the pandemic. To that end, the League has urged an audit of census operations to ensure a safe and accurate count.