Sometimes there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
When COVID first struck, President Donald Trump downplayed the virus, telling Americans the coronavirus was about as serious as the seasonal flu. The politics at the time were unchanged from a pre-pandemic state, meaning the United States were as polarized as ever. Citizens left of center were convinced by Dr. Anthony Fauci that this pandemic was serious enough to warrant lockdowns, masks, and a relentless appetite for blaming the death toll on the other side.
Meanwhile, American conservatives were downplaying the virus at nearly every turn, blaming a media and the World Health Organization for intentionally fanning the flames of fear. The right wing in America also gravitated towards conspiracy theories, such as the insistence that the virus was being used to usher in The Great Reset, a diabolical plan by the world’s elite led by Charles Schwabb who, according to true believers, wanted to turn the entire planet into a haven of socialism.
Lost in the polarization aspect of this disease is how it impacted racialized communities. For example, Indigenous communities were far more likely to die from COVID than any other race.
But what are some of the reasons we see a spike in deaths among racialized communities, and was there anything that could have been done?
First let’s consider the abstract for a moment. Specifically, if we look at Indigenous and Black Americans, we have to consider the lack of trust each group has overall for the American government. Both groups have legitimate grievances that trace all the way back to before America was a country. Slavery, genocide, a litany of human rights violations, and even government programs that deliberately used Black Americans as guinea pigs are just some of the reasons a lack of trust permeates between Black citizens and the government, and can help explain why the mortality rate differentiates.
First, just 57% of Black Americans have received one dose of the vaccine, a startling statistic and one that helps explain why Black people die at a higher rate than white people or Asians. Access to vaccine clinics is another issue, with socio-economic conditions often determining who gets the vaccine. When the new strains of COVID are factored in, the numbers are even more disproportionate. Health officials say this is due to the low vaccination rates from earlier strains of the virus, complicating the statistics and keeping mortality rates higher than they are for white Americans.
And it isn’t just COVID that sees a disproportionate amount of Black Americans dying. The ongoing issue of guns in America also impact Black Americans at a much higher rate than white Americans. Blacks account for 13.6% of the overall population in America, but they account for 31.8% of firearm deaths. So many factors contribute to this disparity, including generational poverty, socio-economic conditions, and a militarized police force that sees an exponentially higher rate of police interactions than all other races combined.
Of course there are other reasons embedded inside these lop-sided numbers, including personal responsibility and mental health, but overall the culture of America itself is at play, a culture where race, no matter what, always plays a role.