The Coronavirus in the Black Community: A Crisis Within A Crisis

Morris H. Erwin, Jr.

The definition of  a crisis is a time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger.  There is a crisis that’s running rampant around the world due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

In the United States many Americans have lost jobs, homes, and loved ones within a short period of time. Things change and they change fast.

In recent weeks the statistics on deaths from the virus reveal that blacks are being hit the hardest and dying at disproportionately higher rates than whites.  Major cities such as: Chicago, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and states of Maryland and South Carolina are among those now starting to report data based on race, and show an over-representation of victims who are black.  33% of those hospitalized are African American.  13% of the U.S. population is African American.  68% of Coronavirus deaths in Chicago were African American. (Source: CDC Chicago Department of Public Health.) 

Medical professionals report Americans as less likely to be able to afford health insurance, and African Americans are more likely to live in overcrowded residences compared to the general population.  In addition to those reasons, the majority of African Americans are at risk by working on the front lines as service and essential workers.  Many African American women are being forced to make a decision between paying rent, or sacrificing their health by going to work. 

Despite the staggering statistics, percentages, and circumstances impacting the black community, no one seems to be surprised.  Are blacks becoming numb to structural racism to the extent that suffering and surviving are part of the “Black Experience,” or is the Coronavirus only affecting the most vulnerable populations of the “Black Community?” 

Studies show that 50% of African Americans are more likely to have heart disease than white people.  40% are more likely to die at an early age from any cause.  19% cannot afford to see a doctor.  (Source: Centers for Disease Control) 

These life threatening conditions were happening to blacks way before Corona swooped in on America, the pandemic only exposed the day to day crisis of survival that blacks face in these forgotten communities. 

So what can we do as a community to support our most vulnerable  populations in cities across the country?  Do we need to put more pressure on the local, state, and federal authorities? 

There has been a growing conversation about reparations for black people.  Is this a crisis that can be fixed from the outside in?  Religion will not fix it.  Education will not fix it.  African Americans still struggle with one word in America, that’s identity.

Until we know ourselves as individuals and as a collective community, immune to the barriers of class, religion or politics, we will forever be in crisis mode.  When we get clear about our collective story and identity, the healing process can begin from within, and we can stand strong against any crisis.