People of color (POC) have suffered tremendously from the effects of the coronavirus. Studies have shown that Black individuals are less likely to be referred for COVID-19 testing (WaPo), and people in Black and Latinx communities are both more likely to be infected by the virus and to have poorer outcomes (NYT).
Data like these show that medical racism is not a thing of the past. POC are disproportionately affected by negative medical outcomes as a result of prejudices and centuries of systemic racism.
Common examples of medical racism include:
The concept of race has been created by humans and accepted over time as a means of identifying people with a certain group. Despite our ideas of race, the COVID-19 virus has no concept of race and can affect anyone because we are all biologically the same. However, there are certain societal factors in play that have made Black people more likely to be infected with the virus. These factors that are social rather than biological are known as the social determinants of health.
Because of years of oppression, Black communities face certain conditions that cause a higher likelihood of falling ill from COVID.
1. Black people have a higher likelihood of working in jobs that are not able to be performed from home. While many people can work from home during this time and minimize their risk of exposure, Black people have a higher likelihood of working positions deemed "essential," such as health services, retail, or transit employees.
2. Black people are more likely to live in a city apartment. Increased population density and the need for public transportation and elevators increase risk of exposure.
3. Black people have a higher incidence of underlying health conditions, making certain people at higher risk for getting seriously ill. Due to numerous social effects such as generational stress and trauma, and poor working or living conditions, Black people have higher rates of health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease.
4. Black people have less access to healthcare. There are strong data showing decreased access to care, inequality of care, inadequate health insurance, and fear of hospital discrimination that make COVID-19 outcomes worse for Black people.
Why African-Americans may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19