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By Marlysa D. Gamblin
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic further revealed the legacy of unresolved racism by disproportionately harming Black and Brown communities. The looming question that many policymakers—including President-elect Joe Biden and the new Congress—must face is how to address these racial inequities.
The answers can be found in a new report from Bread for the World Institute: “Racially Equitable Responses to COVID-19.”
The report compares the national death rates per 100,000 people in each racial group: 80 for Black people, 67 for Indigenous people, 59 for Pacific Islanders, and 46 for Latino/as—compared to 36 for white people. Whether the data comes from the county, state, or national level, the report shows that Black communities have the highest COVID-19 infection and death rates of any racial or ethnic group.
The report finds that race, particularly being Black, is the strongest determinant of death from COVID-19—a stronger indicator than risk factors such as older age or having diabetes. As such, the first overarching recommendation of the report is to apply a racial equity lens in response to the crisis—and to go one step further by centering Blackness to undo the anti-Black racism that has led to these inequitable results.
The second overarching recommendation of this report is to center the experiences of Black women—an intersection that is often ignored. Centering Black women is critical to achieve racially equitable responses to COVID-19 because they have been the hardest hit. For instance, although Black women only account for 13 percent of the female population, they represent almost 40 percent of women who are dying from COVID-19. The majority of Black workers are Black women—many of whom have had exposure to the virus from their frontline, lower paying jobs. Black women were also the hardest hit by unemployment.
Other recommendations in the report include immediate responses for food insecurity, income, and housing, as well as long-term systemic responses to close the racial wealth divide and to eliminate racialized concentrated poverty, racial health inequities, and racism more broadly.
As the Biden-Harris team transitions to the White House and a new session of Congress begins, we recommend that our elected officials and other policymakers address the racial inequities born from anti-Black racism, which have widened during the pandemic:
Marlysa D. Gamblin is senior domestic policy advisor, racial and gender divides at Bread for the World Institute.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic further revealed the legacy of unresolved racism by disproportionately harming Black and Brown communities.
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