To Answer Trump’s Question…
He asked why African Americans were dying of COVID-19 at a higher rate
During a briefing in the first week of April, Trump wondered aloud about higher death rate of African Americans from the COVID 19 virus. He said “We want to find the reasons on it…Why is it three or four times more so for the black community as opposed to other people? It doesn’t make sense and I don’t like it.”
Putting aside that our president does not seem to have much historical knowledge (for example, when he was at the Pearl Harbor monument, he asked “What’s this a tour of?”), here are a few thoughts:
As a European American, even having spent thousands of hours doing oral history interviews with my African American neighbors see stackstories.com for my documentary films about historic African American schools and sharecropping), I only glimpse what it is like to walk in their shoes. However, if we hope for a better world, we must try to understand the experiences of our neighbors/students/co-workers and work to mitigate inequities.
“The metaphor of an iceberg is useful for describing the levels at which racism operates (Gee et al., 2009). The tip of the iceberg represents acts of racism, such as cross-burnings, that are easily seen and individually mediated. The portion of the iceberg that lies below the water represents structural racism; it is more dangerous and harder to eliminate.” -Gilbert C. Gee and Chandra L. Ford
We see disparities in outcomes related to coronavirus based on the old fault lines of race. For example, fatality rates for African Americans in Chicago are disproportionately high (see https://www.cbsnews.com/news/african-americans-comprise-more-than-70-percent-of-covid-19-deaths-in-chicago-mayor-says-2020-04-06/)
It’s not just one factor, but an accumulation of social and economic factors that make this crisis worse for African Americans. Here is just one example of a factor: Going into the COVID-19 crisis, African Americans already had much higher rates of poorly controlled asthma, partly due to a lack of access to medical care. HHS reports that African Americans have much higher rates of asthma and are almost three times more likely to die of asthma than European Americans.
In addition, as has been noted by many, “social distancing” is a privilege, and those who have insecure housing and/or low-wage jobs in essential services do not have the luxury of staying home. Again, this disproportionately affects African Americans who, thanks to targeted government policies, have accumulated little generational wealth.
These are a just a few thoughts and facts related to this phenomenon. Much more can be said. However, it is clear that the disparity in death rates has to be seen in the context of the larger economic and historical context. These issues cannot be fixed by a simple individual action, such as eating more greens.