Why does coronavirus kill so many African Americans? Should the US society grieve about these deaths or try to learn a lesson? Did all those people die for no reason? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020), African Americans are overrepresented among hospitalized patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19). A Washington Post article published at the beginning of April claims that the prevalence of coronavirus in African American communities is three times the rate of infections and nearly six times the rate of deaths in comparison with white communities (Scott, 2020). The present paper aims at discussing the reasons for such high mortality among African Americans. The analysis demonstrates that a high mortality rate among Black people is explained by the unwillingness of the US government to address the problems of cultural minorities.
The primary factors that affect mortality rates among African Americans are underlying health conditions and discrepancy in access to care. According to the CDC (2020), Blacks have a higher prevalence of chronic diseases in comparison with whites. When the executive of Prince George’s County, which is an African American community, heard that aggravating factors of COVID-19 were high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, she said, “Oh, my God, that is us!” (Nirappil et al., 2020, para. 22). Moreover, African Americans are more likely not to have health insurance and have limited access to care (CDC, 2020). However, even when they are provided with care, it usually of poor quality. On April 3, Mt. Sinai medical workers protested for not having enough protective gear for the medical personnel (Johnson & Buford, 2020). This implies that hospitals serving cultural minorities are not given enough attention and funding.
Such discrepancy in the quality of healthcare had been known about long before the pandemic. CDC (2020) acknowledges that stigma and systemic inequalities are prevalent and contribute to the risk factors of COVID-19. Therefore, coronavirus just made the problems of the healthcare system more apparent to the public. In summary, a high prevalence of chronic conditions, inadequate access to healthcare, low quality of provided care, and lack of health insurance are primary factors that contribute to increased mortality rates among African Americans.
African Americans are more likely to work during the pandemic and contact those of poor health. Black people are more likely to hold essential jobs and continue working during the epidemic (Scott, 2020). Moreover, African Americans are more likely not to be provided with sick leaves, which forces them to work and contact others (CDC, 2020). A video posted by Jason Hargrove on Facebook demonstrates how dangerous it is to work during the pandemic (CNN, 2020). In the video, the bus driver complains about the fact that some people are irresponsible, which puts public workers at an increased risk of death. However, the message sent by the bus driver also reveals another problem that affected the death rates among African Americans.
African Americans were confused about the mixed signals sent by the government. In the video mentioned above, Jason Hargrove complained that the spread of coronavirus was due to the irresponsible behavior of people (CNN, 2020). People in some communities did not know the dangers of COVID-19 and often denied its existence (CNN, 2020). This implies that the government and local authorities failed to provide consistent information about coronavirus to the public, especially in African American communities. If the message was clear to the public, people would be more aware of social distancing and use personal protective gear to stop the spread of the disease. Keneshia Grant, a political science professor at Howard University, confirmed that “mixed messages from the Trump administration and some governors in states with large black populations caused confusion” (Scott, 2020, para. 19). While the problem of mixed messages from the government is not covered in any of the scholarly journals, the opinions of the public and experts are enough to prove the point. In summary, African American communities were hit by the pandemic due to the lack of a consistent message sent by the government.
Living conditions of cultural minorities may also contribute to the risk of dying from coronavirus. According to the CDC (2020), many Black and Hispanic families live in densely populated areas, which increases the number of contacts every day. Moreover, African Americans often live together with older family members, making it difficult to protect them from the virus (CDC, 2020). At the same, African Americans are overrepresented in jails, prisons, and detention centers, which are associated with increased risk of infection (CDC, 2020). The bus driver, who posted the video mentioned above, also lived in a densely populated area of Detroit and died from coronavirus soon after the publication (CNN, 2020). Thus, the disparities in housing contribute to the high mortality rates among African Americans.
Putting together all the four factors mentioned above, it can be concluded that high mortality rates among African Americans are due to the government’s unwillingness to solve the problems of racial minorities. The discrepancy in healthcare quality and access, unresolved housing problems, mixed messages from the government, and poor working conditions demonstrate that instead of focusing on the real issues of people, the government found other priorities. Some local governments were careless to release some nonviolent inmates from jails, which facilitated the spread of the diseases (Nirappil et al., 2020). Some public agencies serving African American communities failed to provide workers of essential industries and healthcare providers with protective gear, which also contributed to the spread of the disease (Johnson & Buford, 2020; CNN, 2020). Thus, it becomes clear that the US government and local authorities are blind to the needs of cultural minorities. The pandemic only made this more apparent due to the high mortality rates among Black people.
The problems of minorities were known long before the pandemic, and the fact that the government did little to address them explains high mortality rates among African Americans. Minorities are more likely to have decreased access to care due to the lack of health insurance or long distance to the nearest facility. Moreover, the quality of care provided by hospitals serving cultural minorities is usually poor. African Americans are forced to work during the pandemic as they are overrepresented in essential industries. African Americans often live together with older members of the family, which also increases the risk of death from coronavirus. Finally, African Americans were sent mixed messages about the dangers of COVID-19, which caused confusion. While the numbers concerning morality rates are alarming, there is hope that the US society will not let the problem go unnoticed.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority groups. CDC.gov.
CNN. (2020). . [Video]. YouTube. Web.
Johnson, A., & Buford, T. (2020). . TruthOut. Web.
Nirappil. F., Wiggins, O., & Harden, J. (2020). . The Washington Post. Web.
Scott, E. (2020). . Washington Post. Web.