Race and Coronavirus in America

Being Black in America might make you more susceptible to COVID-19


AP News

The virus that “doesn’t discriminate” has disproportionately affected black communities.

COVID-19 and it’s rising death toll have become matters of concern for every person on Earth, after achieving pandemic status. Unfortunately, in America, the concern is greater for some groups of people than others. Recently, networks like CNN have been casting segments of slideshows, displaying some of those that have passed from complications related to the virus. Their names and bios are read while somber music plays in the background. Among these photos, one can not help but notice a pattern: most of these people displayed are Black. 

In America, African Americans account for 52% of nationwide diagnoses, and 58% of nationwide deaths, according to the most recent studies. It is also important to consider that this same group of people make up less than 13% of the country’s population. These numbers are almost comparable with this country’s prison rates, but that’s for another article. There is a clear racial gap concerning the susceptibility to the virus’s fatal grasp. Questions begin to form: Are Black people just, inherently, more virus prone? Is there a deeper issue at hand?

One major cause for this race gap in virus affliction is food insecurity. Many Black neighborhoods in America are considered food deserts. For those that are not familiar, food deserts are areas and neighborhoods with limited or no access to healthy, nutritional options. Because of their location in relation to farms, or a low median income in their area, many families are left without healthy options at local grocery stores. This includes organic–or fresh at the least–fruits and vegetables. This is a prevalent issue in the community, and, according to a BBC study, “Black US households in 2018 were twice as likely to be food insecure as the national average, with one in five families lacking consistent access to enough food.” While it is estimated that “23.5 million people live in food deserts,” according to DoSomething.org, the number might actually be greater. The same source notes how “[T]he North American Industry Classification System places small corner grocery stores (which often primarily sell packaged food) in the same category as grocery stores like Safeway and Whole Foods.” This denies the public accurate data on who actually has access to healthy food: suppressing the issue, oppressing the hungry. 

If these options are available, poverty makes them solely ornamental. Half of the families in food deserts cannot afford the healthier options, resorting to cheaper alternatives, which are almost always more nutritionally harmful. When people’s diets are based on cheap, saturated fat-riddled, fast food, it can lead to harmful conditions like heart and lung disease. One thing that most have learned from health warnings during this time: COVID-19 targets those with preexisting conditions. If some Black Americans are more likely to be deficient of basic nutrition, how can they possibly stand to fight a pandemic that preys on that specific situation?

A virus that has no eyes or ears–certainly no ability to comprehend the oppressive, racially driven, American mentality–seems to be targeting African Americans at a disproportionate rate. This affects not only those that pass away and their families, but all African Americans in this country, who are, first and foremost, Americans. This is a problem that is affecting and killing Americans. While the pandemic has shown itself as a racial issue, this is not only a Black problem. This is a problem for all Americans to consider and work to combat. 

The solutions to an unequal rate is clear: work for better nutrition in these neighborhoods; create legislation that might establish sufficient sources for healthy food options in impoverished neighborhoods; integrate nutritional health education into local curriculums, so young students can learn how to build healthy diets; establishing initiatives from supermarkets to open locations in food insecure areas. Unfortunately, all of these solutions seem like too much effort for those that have the power to execute them.

Although a lot of blame can be placed on systemic racism and the predisposition to poverty that many Black people struggle against everyday, it is important to take matters into our own hands. Because of these alarming statistics, all Americans should take heed of the stay at home suggestions. African Americans, especially, should take these suggestions seriously and with great gravity. Quarantine is the most effective way of fighting this pandemic, besides an actual vaccination (which, in itself, can be problematic, depending on your inclination to conspiracy theories). It is the job of everyday civilians to do our best to reprieve those that are on the front line, such as nurses and doctors.

 There are many ways to go about combating this issue, but the first and most important task that needs to be completed is acknowledging the issue, and understanding its consequences, which are currently life and death. The conversation is what opens the doors to reform. As Americans, we have to recognize and call attention to the wrong we see everyday. As community members, we need to act. If our local, state or national governments aren’t going to stand up for this group of people, we must stand up ourselves.