Today, as we enter our fifth week in quarantine (I think, I've honestly lost count at this point), I want to talk about something that cannot go unignored. Among millions infected globally, new problems have arisen, including new forms of racism and social inequalities among different groups of people, particularly in the United States.
Firstly, I would like to address the racism associated with the novel COVID-19 virus.
With the spread of the Coronavirus globally, xenophobia has not been far behind. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus began, reports of racism toward East Asian communities have continued to grow. The association of pandemics with certain populations is certainly not new, but it is still something that continues to exist no matter how "developed" we think we are as a society.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, recently stated,“Stigma, to be honest, is more dangerous than the virus itself." Yet, leaders and politicians of the United States continue to refer to the virus as "the Chinese virus," or "the Wuhan virus,"further spreading misinformation and xenophobia among their supporters. Due to these remarks, Chinatowns' businesses were unsupported by customers (before quarantine), a Vietnamese artist was not allowed to enter one of London's art festivals, a teenage boy kicked a 59-year-old Asian man, a man chased an innocent elderly woman down the street with Purell, and thousands of other instances that are too many to name.
Fear (as expressed in my last article linked here) over COVID-19 can make people anxious and may also lead to racism towards others who are only perceivedto be associated with the virus. Though the initial spread of COVID-19 occurred in Wuhan, China, it is important to be informed that although the disease is linked to a geographic location (as is every disease), it is not linked to a race or nationality, therefore making xenophobia and acts of racism unacceptable.
Secondly, due to COVID-19, we have noticed higher rates of infection and mortality among African-American communities across the United States.
In Michigan, African-Americans create 15% of the state population but represent 35% of people diagnosed with COVID-19. This means that Blacks in Michigan are 133% more likely to contract the novel coronavirus relative to their percentage of the state. However, Whites represent 25% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 and 26% of deaths, and they represent 75% of the population.
In Chicago, African-Americans represent 70% of people who have died from the Coronavirus.
Some, including Dr. Fauci, say that pre-existing health conditions are contributing to racial disparities in the COVID-19 outbreak. Dr. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said, "Health disparities have always existed for the African American community… [Coronavirus is] shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is because, yet again, when you have a situation like the Coronavirus, they are suffering disproportionately. We will get over Coronavirus, but there will still be health disparities which we really do need to address in the African American community."
Others say that structural conditions are what inform the outcomes that we are seeing today. For example, African-Americans largely run public transportation, restaurant, and other industries that require direct and often unsanitary contact with other people. On top of this, many within the African-American community lack proper healthcare that is needed to prevent and treat this virus.
Last week, I was invited to speak on a podcast about the role of healthcare in national security. There, I address the problems that the lack of healthcare among underserved communities can have on our global public health. To listen, click here.
The solution to the problems above is to prevent the spread of misinformation, which is what I'm trying my best to do as a high school student currently living through this pandemic. I hope that you share this article with others so that together we can combat not only the Coronavirus itself, but the xenophobia and racial disparities associated with it.