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    Black Health and Killing Black Americans are the Public Health Crises We Needed to Address a Long Time Ago

    When I first started penning this piece, I knew we were deep in the midst of a public health crisis.

    I knew it needed addressing but I did not anticipate having to address both the coronavirus pandemic and the uprising we see taking place at the moment.

    It’s been almost eight weeks, three months for some, since the coronavirus pandemic descended upon the world.

    The coronavirus pandemic came like a thief in the night shaking down healthcare systems all across the globe. From rich countries to poor, gaping wounds opened up in our systems that have been ignored for years, and laid bare the truth about each country’s healthcare situation and the attitude of each of its leaders.

     

    The impact of COVID-19 on the black community

    Unbelievably, the US, one of the wealthiest countries in the world took the biggest hit and although some states are currently reopening, it may not mean the threat is over.

     At the time of the initial writing of this post, there were 1,171,510 cases and 17,000+ deaths. We are now over 100,000 deaths here in the US.

    And on a more personal level, I know many of us are suffering physically and mentally, not to mention, financially!

    This virus has created fear. It brought the possibility of personal mortality a little too close to home, especially for the black community.

    Statistics by the CDC as of April 18 showed that non-Hispanic black people are suffering the most from this pandemic. Looking at the chart below shows that the blue colored area represents black folk.

    Screen Shot 2020 05 06 at 4.21.43 PM

    On April 17, Mother Jones presented some data that they say proves it.

    The conclusion from the website says: In early April, Mother Jones began requesting racial and ethnic breakdowns of COVID-19 infections and deaths from health departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Of those, 21 states released no racial or ethnic breakdowns of those infected. Twenty-six states failed to release breakdowns of fatalities by race, and among the states that did, the information was inconsistently formatted. Some broke out data only by race, others only by ethnicity, and some by both. Some offered data for Latinx and Asian communities; others classified them as “Other.” Most states had little if any information about how Latinx, Asian, and Native American populations have been affected.

    This chart below that puts it all into perspective.

    Screen Shot 2020 05 06 at 5.16.31 PM 2
    The Harvard Business Review says: Recent data coming out of New York, Chicago, and Louisiana indicate that deaths from COVID-19 are disproportionately high among communities of color — black and Latino patients in particular. Though blacks are only 22% of New York City’s population, as of mid-April they constituted 28% of fatalities from the virus. In Chicago, where blacks are 30% of the population, they comprise 70% of those killed by COVID-19. In the state of Louisiana, blacks are 32% of the population but 70% of those dead from the disease.

    At an earlier White House briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), worried about greater rates of high-risk illnesses among black people, saying, “The diabetes, hypertension, the obesity, the asthma — those are the kinds of things that wind them up in the ICU and ultimately give a higher death rate.”

     

    A public health crisis turned mental health crisis

    I began thinking about these stats. 

    Black people in America showing up as the biggest victims of COVID-19 is directly tied to race, class, and access to the healthcare system.

    We are are the ones doing the frontline service jobs – driving buses, working security, working as cooks and dishwashers, cashiers, nurses, home health aides…

    Oscar Alleyne, a public health expert with the National Association of County and City Health Officials told BuzzFeed News, “You can’t drive a bus or wash dishes on Zoom. These are people we count on to do essential jobs, and they are going unprotected.”

    I think this stark reality really resonated with many of us during this pandemic. It showed up in various ways to personally affect us and our families.

    Coronavirus was supposed to be the great equalizer, and for a minute I figured not even this pandemic could make black synonymous with equality! 

    But it seems as though, there is hope alive because besides the pandemic, killing black Americans is also a public health crisis, a topic that long needed the attention it is getting now.

    Then, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, sparked the protests currently happening all across the country, and justifiably so. 

    COVID-19 opened the wound and watching George Floyd lose his life so unfairly, poured salt into that wound.

    The black community is not just fighting to stay alive out of this pandemic, but to stay alive to walk the street freely without fear of false discrimination and racial profiling. We want to get back home safely!

    And so now is when the fight begins – to maintain our mental health, save individuals, save families, and save our community, as we move toward getting back outside. 

     

    WE MUST DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY!

     

    On May 20, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and 279 other organizations issued the following statement today in response to news that the Trump administration is preparing to publish a final rule that would dramatically undermine the Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination provisions. You can read the letter HERE.

    The NAACP is using the #WeAreDoneDying hashtag to rally support for its 6-tier campaign, shown in the graphic below.

    Join the fight with the NAACP by clicking HERE.

    For other mental health resources, please check our RESOURCES PAGE.

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