America, To Better Help The Black Community, First Acknowledge How We Got Here
Yes, systematic racism is still a thing.
April 11, 2020 at 9:03 pm
These days, every time you turn on the news you see yet another story on COVID-19. Living in New York City, the epicenter of the virus, it’s sometimes difficult watching the latest reports. As cases continue to rise throughout the country, we’re seeing an alarming trend: African Americans have a higher infection and fatality rate than any other race.
If you’re an African American, you’ve seen this trend many times before. Whenever an issue grips America, we’re always severely disadvantaged compared to everyone else. However, politicians and healthcare officials alike never wish to acknowledge the glaring reason for such disparity. You can’t help the Black community without acknowledging systematic racism still exist. This pandemic serves as yet another opportunity for the nation to come to grips with this issue.
While the whole nation continues to deal with COVID-19, the statistics among African Americans have proven to be staggering. According to CNN, in Louisiana alone, African Americans make up 32% of the population but account for 70% of the fatalities. We’re seeing the same numbers in Georgia and other locations as well. Government officials, political pundits and even the Surgeon General have pointed this out. However, it feels like no one wants to dig deeper into the issue at hand.
There are many circumstances contributing to why African Americans are suffering from COVID-19. For example, African Americans suffer from high risk health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure more than their counterparts. These same issues further increase the effect the virus can have on Black bodies.
Black people often can’t afford quality food and choose cheap food, resulting in poor nutrition. Living in the projects, I’ve often been in that same position. Opting for McDonald’s because it could fill my stomach for less than five dollars. Even when we know it’s not good for us in the long run, we’re forced to deal with the consequences at a later point.
Poor diets have always afflicted the Black community. A lack of access to healthier alternatives has led to a cycle of poor eating habits that have been passed on to our children.
Our community also finds themselves unable to practice social distancing to the full extent. Living in Harlem, I see it all the time. Our community has always struggled living check to check on low wages. We can’t afford to stay inside and stock up on supplies. While I have the privilege to work from home, most of my community can’t. When I step outside, the people I see waiting in lines, for the most part, look like me. Many of the people laid off look like me. The ones who continue to ride the public transit because they still must find a way to make a living are people who look like me.
I was on the train with an older gentleman. His words to me said it all: “I still have to work and there’s no other way.” This is often the case. A majority of Black people don’t possess the education or careers to position themselves in a better place for situations like the one we’re facing now. They are aware of the risk, but they still take the gamble if it’s required to provide for their family.
In a bittersweet way, COVID-19 has provided a teachable moment. America needs to accept the fact that systemic racism has played the most vital role in what we’re seeing today, in regard to the strife Black people are going through. Historically, we’ve never had access to quality jobs, education or health care. The current system in place has always disadvantaged minorities — and not much has been done to fix it.
We often have to beg for change, and the lawmakers drag their feet to do it. Until there’s revolutionary change within the system, the game will continue to be played and our community will continue to be the losers.
As I reflect on my life, I remember how blessed I truly am. Growing up, all I’ve known was the shelter and the projects. I’ve been fortunate to have a hardworking mother who always instilled the importance of education to me. I took her work ethic and it led me to a college degree and a good paying job. But times like this always make me wonder: What if I lived in a shelter during this pandemic? What if I didn’t have a job right now? These are questions people are now facing.
It would be irresponsible of me to not acknowledge the position I’m in as a Black man and not make a conscious effort to bring a spotlight to the root of the problem. They say to find the cure you must first acknowledge that there’s a disease. In my opinion, The United States of America will continue to fail the Black community if they do not first admit that the past is still prevalent today.
It is my hope that my Black community will also read this and understand the system is not set up for us. We have to come together to change the rules of the game.