Submitted by Donna on Wed, 05/13/2020 - 15:28

African Americans are disproportionately infected and dying from the Covid 19 virus. In Chicago, 30 percent of the population is African Americans, yet they represent 70 percent of the deaths. They are more likely to be infected and also more likely to die. This is just not a phenomenon in Chicago. It is happening in cities all over the country and is even happening in other countries. So, why is it that African Americans are dying at such alarmingly high rates?

Many people are saying that the reason for the higher rates of infection and deaths is related to underlying conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Why do African Americans have higher rates of underlying conditions? It is likely related to the underlying condition that we rarely talk about, racism. Racism impacts access to nutrition, preventative care, child care, education, employment, housing and wealth.

I am often asked if we should address race or poverty. I am always very clear: BOTH. Both affect outcomes. Martin Luther King taught that economic injustices cross race and on top of that, people experience inequities through racism. Even if an African American is not being impacted by poverty, they are impacted by racism. You can’t address one without the other. Dr. King also said, “We hardly get to talk about race because it’s too confounded with poverty.”

I just read a recent article (Medlock, 2020) with some very good ideas about how to address the racism. They suggested that we do an Economic Stimulus Plan to help people who have been impacted by racism. We did it with the CARES Act. We did it understanding that people were going to lose their job, people were going to lose their ability to pay for their mortgages or their rent and food. So, let’s do one for race—for the racism that has prevented people really developing their full potential.

Here are three things I think we can do that will help with the underlying condition of racism that is leading to higher death rates.

  1. Provide an Economic Stimulus Plan for those impacted by racism. If we do that, it will help people get a footing and begin to address the generations of impact from institutionalized racism.
  2. Require education and training for everyone on your staff. We should require people to have a deep understanding of how race has impacted people in the United States. In these trainings, we have to address the subconscious bias around poverty and race that really gets in the way of us making the difference that we want to make in our communities. We should also take the time to do self reflection around our attitudes and beliefs about people who are different from us—then really challenge the stereotypes and myths so we can see all people as having value and amazing talents to contribute.
  3. Do a systemic analysis of your policies and programs to make sure that the policies are not embedded with structural racism. Think about what your organization has done to really analyze the policies and practices to ensure that you are really unearthing the systemic racism that prevents people from developing to their full potential.
  4. We are all people, and we all have the same dreams and desires and wants. We all need to eat, and – if we are hungry—it feels the same. If we are cut, we are all going to bleed. We need to realize that we are all just people. When we see our fellow human beings as people like us, we treat them differently. But it does require us doing some due diligence around racism. Racism is real and alive and we need to address it.

Thank you very much for joining me. Next week, I am going to be talking about strategies for communicating and relating more effectively across poverty barriers. Share with your friends and join me Wed. May 20, 1:30 Pacific for the FB live session or you can view it on this site later in the day.

 

 

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Please tune in next Wednesday for our 5th mini poverty training session. Remember to share with your networks if you think this will be helpful to them!

 

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