A Pandemic Exposing A Pandemic

“All men are created equal.”

Five words penned by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, specifically at a time when all men were not free. In an attempt to justify slavery while abiding by “all men are created equal”, people of the African diaspora were alienated from the human race. This alienation has not failed to wreak havoc on Black people in America over the past four hundred years. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed racially induced health disparities. 

The coronavirus has hit the Black community harder than any other community in the United States. Most people think the coronavirus disparities are a result of failure to abide by safety measures. However, the causes for these racial disparities are social and economic circumstances created by white America over the generations.

When Black people were eventually freed––at least on paper–– they were not given money, shelter, or ultimately anything to start a new life with. The results of being unable to provide were mass death, mass incarceration, and an endless cycle of poverty that we still have today. 

In the midst of dealing with poverty, Black people have been denied affordable housing and housing loans since 1933. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, redlining was legal housing segregation. We can see the effects of redlining today, as Long Island is the tantamount of the Jim Crow South. Housing segregation has concentrated poverty and, in turn, has been a contributing factor to racial health disparities.

Seeing that many Black people are living in poverty, they do not have the monetary means to maintain a healthy diet. Thus whole food stores, like Trader Joes, do not set up shop in Black neighborhoods and the food made available to them is mostly cheap grocery items and fast food. While fresh food is more ideal, affordable items are usually frozen and canned. Though canned and frozen foods are still nutritious, they expose consumers to a chemical called BPA (bisphenol A).

Exposure to BPA has been linked to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Consequently, these health issues make one more susceptible to the deadly COVID-19. 

Though nearly all fast food chains offer healthy choices, like salads, these menu items are often more expensive than the main menu items which happen to be high in sodium, sugars, fats, and cholesterol. High sodium rates are common in fast foods and mass sodium consumption can increase one’s blood pressure, risk for stroke, risk for heart failure, and risky for kidney disease. All health issues that make a person more susceptible to COVID-19. Many do not have the means to afford adequate healthcare to counter these conditions, leaving them in even more danger.

Overrepresentation of Black people in the service industry has also ensured their increased exposure to the virus. Black essential workers are needed on the frontlines and some cannot afford to stay home even if they are high risk. Black people, especially those at high risk, should not have to set aside their health to continue working to make ends meet.

Black Lives Matter demonstrators are currently adjuring for police departments across the nation to be defunded. Funds from police departments would be re-allocated to educational services, mental health services, community development, etc. Thus, redirected funds would allow for majority Black populated schools to be properly subsidized. Stellar education, educational environments, and educational opportunities would allow Black children to eventually excel in a country designed to see them fail.

Giving Black communities the means to break out poverty will inadvertently decrease racially induced health disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the toll racism has had on the physical well-being of members of Black community. We have the resources to start halting the impacts of white supremacy. A majority of those in power have denounced racism and white supremacy and, quite literally, it is time for them to put the money where their mouth is.

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Nathan Odige