Updated: May 24
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles about the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the African American community.
Last week, I examined why more blacks were dying than whites during the COVID-19 pandemic. I outlined three primarily reasons why black people are more likely to die as a result of the disease – some of those reasons preventable.
Even though COVID-19 is an extraordinary event that has had a profound impact on the world, it’s had the most impact in America. And, as the saying goes, “when white America catches a cold, black America gets the flu.”
More than anything, the pandemic brings to the fore the disparities that people of color face in America with systemic racism on a daily basis. Until America gets serious about addressing systemic racism, people of color will continue to disproportionately be affected during any crisis. And, three fundamental inequities that must be addressed include education, healthcare and housing.
In February 2019, the non-profit, EdBuild, released the results of a study that looked at education in America by race. That study found that school districts that are predominantly black receive on average, $11,682 per student, compared with $13,908 for predominantly white school districts.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that predominantly white districts receive more funding than their black counterparts. In fact, non-white school districts receive $23 billion less funding than white school districts. But it is infuriating.
Sixty-six years after the landmark Brown v. The Board of Education ruling that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, that separate but equal was inherently wrong and that U.S. schools would be integrated, 12.8 million black students, or 27 percent of the total black student total in America, attends a school that is at least 75 percent non-white.
In fact, racial divides are on the rise in America, not on the decline. A New York Times article last year pointed out that more than half of the nation’s school districts are in racially concentrated districts. This means that little real progress has been made toward fully integrating U.S. schools. Anti-busing protests have been effective in some cases in reducing even modest efforts at integration and this must to change if equity is the objective.
When the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) was passed in 2010, enabling affordable healthcare insurance for all Americans, covering all adults with incomes of less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level and supporting medical care delivery methods designed to lower the cost of healthcare generally, it was hailed as the signature achievement of the presidency of Barack Obama.
That distinction was merited. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, the rate of black Americans who were uninsured dropped by more than one-third, a significant achievement.
But as passionate as 44 was about getting this signature law passed, his successor is determined to overturn it, and in fact, that effort awaits a challenge in the Supreme Court. If the law is overturned, millions of black Americans will once again face uncertainty and potential catastrophic medical and financial ruin when faced with a healthcare crisis like COVID-19.
Black Americans overall have continue to face significant racial inequality, especially when it comes to economic prosperity. In fact, a study on race and net worth from the Tax Policy Center showed the average white family had a net worth of more than $171,000 in 2016, compared with just $17,150 for the average black family.
Home ownership is directly correlated with building and passing along generational wealth, yet racially based lending inequality, redlining and affordability continue to challenge black families looking to establish this basic foundation of building and transferring wealth to the next generation. More must be done to address the discrimination that is all too prevalent in America today.
With each successive generation, black families struggle to achieve a level footing to create a better future for their families for generations to come. In every metric that matters, America continues to fail in establishing equality for black Americans and that failure continues to wreak havoc on what could be a brighter future for black families.
Until more is done to combat the systemic racism and inequality that still exists in America, its black citizens will continue to struggle to advance.
Political activism and social justice advocacy are among the ways that black Americans are constantly beating the drum on equality. Let’s hope that more Americans eventually hear it and take steps to help resolve racial inequalities so black Americans won’t continue to be affected disproportionately whenever a crisis comes.