Coronavirus Diaries: The Great Equalizer for Whom?

        Quarantine Day 38:  I have been working from home, pretty much sequestered for almost a month and a half. Even as an introvert, I’m beginning to feel a little crazy, but I’m fine. We’re fine. We will get through this. As cases are continuing to rise and fall depending on where in the country you are, data has been coming out to suggest that Coronavirus is not the great equalizer that some thought it would be. Here in the United States, we are seeing a trend that people of color are overrepresented in COVID-19 deaths.

African-Americans make up about 13% of the nation’s population, and in states that are reporting on the race of COVID-19 deaths, we are overrepresented at 34%. It’s not surprising that we would be overrepresented in this way. African-Americans have less access to healthcare, higher rates of illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and often work in jobs that are now considered essential. We don’t often think of poverty as a health issue, but it is as important to your health as your economic status. America has created a system where many people are unable to take off from work even if they are sick because they work paycheck to paycheck or they work in areas where they are not protected by having personal days. This is the plight of many not only African-Americans but most people of color as well.

Native Americans and Indigenous groups of people are now being affected and this could have devastating results. In the Navajo Nation, with roughly 175,000 residents they are seeing an increase in cases with 115 infected and two dead. Due to this country’s atrocious acts towards the Native Americans, they are rightfully fearful of the outside world and know the devastation that this could have on their population. In the Amazon, cases are rising among the indigenous populations with at least two deaths. This might seem like a small number, but remember due to their way of life they do not have access to healthcare and because indigenous people live in closer proximity to each other, the virus has the potential to spread like wildfire.

Madonna is perhaps the most well-known person who, as she lay in her bathtub, called the virus the great equalizer. That term is a bit confusing to me because for it to be the Great Equalizer, things should be somewhat equal already. There is nothing equal about our treatment of indigenous people who have had their land stolen and then given small areas to inhabit. There is nothing equal about African-Americans having higher rates of diabetes and heart disease when so many of us are still dealing with the generational trauma of slavery. There is nothing equal about the lack of access to adequate health care and then when you go to the doctor as a person of color you are treated differently. There is nothing equal about what is happening here. Yes, we might all be grieving the loss of life and our way of life, but for some of us, we are grieving while working from home and for many people they cannot work from home and continue to put themselves and their loved ones at risk because they have no choice.

As I’ve been reading more about how people of color are being affected and I hear more stories from those around me who are losing loved ones, it’s becoming more and more overwhelming. But I do think that with every loss there is a chance for rebirth. I know that when we come out on the other side none of us will be the same. My hope is that this change in us will become a change for the better.

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