The Empathy Gap: Coronavirus is hitting Black communities harder than anyone else. Of course it is.

All the reports coming out of major cities say the same thing: Black people are overrepresented in the number of deaths related to COVID-19.

From Louisiana:

Although African Americans make up a third of Louisiana’s population, they account for more than 70% of the state’s deaths from COVID-19 caused by the virus, according to the data. [source]


About 68% of the city’s deaths have involved African Americans, who make up only about 30% of Chicago’s total population, according to an examination of data from the Cook County medical examiner’s office and the Department of Public Health. from Chicago. Sobering statistics suggest that black Chicagoans are dying at nearly six times the rate of white residents. [source]


From Monday [April 6th], 33 of the 45 residents who died of Covid-19 in Milwaukee County were Black, according to the medical examiner. That’s 73 percent, although black residents made up less than half of the county’s population. coronavirus infections and about 28 percent of the county’s total population. [source]


Black people account for more than a third of all COVID-19 cases in Michigan, according to data the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released Saturday. And although Black people make up only about 12% of Michigan’s population, they account for about 40% of all reported COVID-19 deaths. [source]

Saint Louis:

Authorities said Wednesday that All of the people in the city who died from complications related to COVID-19 were African American.. There have been 12 people in St. Louis who have died as of Wednesday. The city now has more than 480 cases of people infected with the coronavirus. [source]

Regarding my city, New York, the numbers for both the black and Latino populations are clear:

Quoting Data of The New York City health department, de Blasio, said that Latinos (who make up about 29% of the population) the city’s population – represent almost 34% of the patients who had died of COVID-19 as of Monday. And nearly 28% of the city’s 2,472 known deaths occurred among black people, who make up about 24% of the population. [source]

Why do the numbers look like this? I think I know why.

One of the most enlightening things I have learned was how to identify racism. In any situation, look for empathy. Empathy, defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another,” is a central function of humanity: if I can see your pain, it is because I empathize with you. If I can see your struggle, I am empathizing with you in that moment.

Look for empathy: which direction does it flow? It rarely flows in the direction of blacks.

White supremacy is about ensuring that resources always flow toward the enrichment of white people, with no regard for the pain this diversion causes others. Racism, in each and every case, consists of justifying because non white people deserve this lack of resources. You have to ignore true pain, turn a blind eye to feel good about receiving what you don’t deserve. You need apathy, indifference. You must justify why you don’t care. Racism is how you do it.

They I don’t need good schools.your culture does not value education. Of course It is okay to imprison your brothers, children and parents; It’s not even that they want to work or even raise their own children. No, it doesn’t matter that they don’t have enough hospitals: they insist on eating that foodThat’s why they deserve what they get.

We see something similar to this in healthcare. That’s a big part of why so many black women are disappearing from our daily lives: We’re succumbing to the consequences of heart disease at an alarming rate, and our doctors barely bother to listen to us when we scream about it. To the person you don’t want to be annoying Enough to care about us, no matter how we say we are suffering. “It’s okay,” they say. “They can handle it.”

My biggest fear, it seems, is coming true.

COVID-19 is a disease that requires an immune system response, and predominantly Black and Brown communities often lack the resources that support a healthy immune system.

Our communities, regardless of their socioeconomic level, are often the ones with the most contamination, which has adverse effects on both the immune system response and cardiovascular health. Clean, breathable air has always been in short supply in black and brown communities, because ours were decimated in favor of creating highways and roads for those suburbanites who fled the cities in search of whiter, that is, larger, spaces.

Remember, the place where you are most likely to find public transportation, throughout the country, is Black and brown communities. Suburban areas often disdain public transportation; was associated with the type of poverty They tried to escape when they left the cities.

Black and Latinx communities are also more likely to be what we know as food deserts, environments where there are few (if any) grocery stores selling a standard variety of fresh produce. Not only the wineries that sell bananas and onions to qualify for EBT, although they are also important: grocery stores, supermarkets, and fruit stands are often in short supply.

Many of the stores that are They often sell poor quality or poor quality products to offer them cheaper. Because of this, families often tend to spend their money on foods that are shelf-stable and less likely to spoil before they can be used, not realizing that shelf-stable foods often have more sodium and less protein, fat, and fiber: three preventive elements against overeating, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

Besides, Black and brown communities are more likely to be food swampsor communities where there are few grocery stores and at the same time host a abundance of fast food options. While much of the research correlates the presence of food swamps with obesity rates, I’m much more interested in the correlation between these food swamps and rates of heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. As expected, track.

And finally, communities where Black and Brown people live also often lack a sufficient number of hospitals and hospital beds to support their care. Recent research from the American Hospital Association notes that 54% of all hospitals in the United States are located in “urban settings.” 80% of the American population lives in the city. In less affluent communities, whether urban or rural, people are less likely to work in jobs that offer health care, health care is not affordable enough outside of employer-sponsored care, and even when do If they have health care, people can rarely afford the deductible or copay to take advantage of it. The lack of resources to make healthcare accessible also means that hospitals cannot afford to provide services and ultimately close, leaving a hospitable desert in your path.

And, not in vain, but even when do access to care, there is nothing This ensures that the doctor you see will actually listen to you when you identify your pain.

And if I even try to talk about the stress-related consequences of racism on the immune system, well, you’ll probably stop reading.

The lack of empathy shown toward our community, the ease with which we are blamed for obvious political failures, is killing us. The empathy gap is devouring us whole.

The comment blaming “metabolic syndrome” (the trifecta of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity) for the black death rate from COVID-19 is little more than a passive-aggressive way of blaming ourselves for what we are doing. obvious political failures. The rates of all three diseases are too high regardless of racial origin, but when one Does your group have insurance they can afford to use, can they afford prescriptions to treat their conditions, do they have hospitals and doctors nearby whom they can see regularly without “losing hours on their paycheck,” do they have access to fresh produce, and do they have clean air to inhale? It’s time to recognize that people are dying because of a selfish, racist policy that starves communities and kills loved ones.

A health care system that is based on serving the people who are most likely to be able to pay is a health care system that will never direct its services to the poor, who are predominantly black and brown. Are there outliers? Absolutely. But they are Atypical values-not the standard. Health care for the poor is based on charity, the voluntary provision of help to those in need.

We’ve been in need for decades: we need cleaner air, we need more accessible healthcare, we need grocery stores, we need policies that reflect and respect us as human beings, and no one listened to us before.

While All of our politicians pretend to be shocked by the discrepancies in the results for black and brown people.pretending we haven’t been dying at much higher rates than our white peers for years, the empathy gap has grown so much that our loved ones are falling into it. We’ve been screaming for a long time. Maybe now they will finally listen.

And, if not, replace them.

Photo credit: Flickr / 401(k)2012

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