Black people are being disproportionately infected with and impacted by COVID-19. Nationwide, they are dying at a rate 2.5 times higher than White people.
As of Aug. 8, the virus has claimed at least 32,246 Black lives. Black people account for 22% of COVID-19 deaths where race is known.
Each of us can act to address this tragedy, especially by advocating for all levels of government to:
- Reinstate shelter-in-place orders.
- Enact safety plans for each state before they reopen that include resources for personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers.
- Publish COVID-19 data disaggregated by county and race.
- Increase public health model testing, tracing, and treatment, with specific support to communities that are low-income and communities of color.
- Expand Medicaid.
- Provide unemployment support for residents that have lost jobs or cannot work.
More specifically, I embrace and recommend these five action steps to drive the aforementioned solutions to the COVID crisis in BIPOC communities:
- Research and Learning (Including Data Gathering): Make an ongoing effort to educate yourself on the facts, history, complexities, and nuances of issues related to COVID-19. Keep links, notes, and data handy so that you can be informed when you interact with others or on social media.
- Equitable Relationships with Members of Historically Underrepresented Groups (HUGs): There’s no substitute for getting to know and spending time with people who are different from you, especially those with less privilege than you enjoy who are more deeply impacted by COVID-19. It’s crucial that these relationships are built on equal footing, without the person with more privilege positioning themselves as the “helper” or, worse, “savior.” The person with more privilege should also do most of the listening and a lot less of the talking.
- Speaking Against Injustices: When you hear or see injustice taking place, whether it’s right in front of you, explained to you by others, or observed through media, take a stand and speak out against it in a compassionate, skillful manner. COVID-19 is exposing widespread injustices that were already entrenched long before the pandemic. These engagements with others can often be awkward, uncomfortable, or downright scary. Sometimes speaking out costs you a relationship or changes how people perceive you.
- Communication With Elected Officials and Signing Petitions: Regularly comment on posts from elected officials or others in positions of power, and create and share posts that address the actions of these individuals in regards to the pandemic. Sign well-organized petitions that can influence policy changes by such elected or appointed individuals. And do so, again, with compassion, skill, and non-violence.
- Contributions of Time, Money, and Resources: Being an effective activist who helps to influence meaningful, sustainable change to relieve COVID-19-related suffering will cost you something. Contribute as much as you’re able to, depending on your individual circumstances and interests. This includes supporting non-profits that are doing effective work on issues that matter to you.
COVID Racial Data Tracker
Don’t take my word on the disproportionate COVID-19 infection and death rate among Black Americans compared to the white population; see it for yourself.
You can do that by checking out the COVID Racial Data Tracker. The tracker is a collaboration between the COVID Tracking Project and the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research (the latter of which is headed by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of the books How to be an Antiracist and Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. Together, these two entities are gathering the most complete and up-to-date race and ethnicity data on COVID-19 in the United States.
The tracker includes the collection, cross-checking, and publishing of COVID-19 data from all states and territories in three main areas: testing, patient outcomes, and racial and ethnic demographic information. Together, these compiled numbers provide the most complete picture available of the pandemic’s effects on the people and communities it strikes.
There are numerous non-profit organizations that are doing effective work in helping those who are suffering due to the widespread impact of COVID-19. Here’s a handful that stood out to me from this Wired article (which also includes some for-profit companies that are donating money) and an article from the National Philanthropic Trust:
- Modest Needs Foundation: Modest Needs provides short-term, emergency financial assistance to individuals and families in the United States and Canada. The organization focuses on those that may not qualify for federal assistance, with the ultimate goal to prevent at-risk households from falling into poverty. Modest Needs has launched an emergency assistance fund to help hourly employees that have been affected by business closings due to the pandemic.
- Feeding America: This organization has a COVID-19 Response Fund that is helping to ensure food banks across the country can feed those in need right now, including the children who rely on school meals to eat.
- CDC Foundation: The CDC Foundation works in close collaboration with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to rapidly deploy private and philanthropic funds where they are needed most during emergency outbreaks.
- Center for Disaster Philanthropy: The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has established the COVID-19 Response Fund to support preparation, containment and recovery needs with a focus on nonprofit organizations working in areas with high numbers of cases and those working with vulnerable populations in those areas, including hourly and gig economy workers, immigrants, elderly adults and individuals with disabilities.
In addition to supporting one or more of these non-profits, if you live in one of the Southern states or are simply concerned about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in that region of the country, another step you can take is signing this petition, asking the governors of these states to prioritize health over profits when scaling back economic activities and considering re-opening.
Self-Care and Mindfulness
Advocating for equity regarding the prevention of, treatment of, and recovery from COVID-19 will be a long game, a marathon that requires a lot of strategy, self-care, and support from others. A key part of my own self-care and ongoing personal growth is practicing the “Five Mindful Trainings,” derived from Buddhist teachings and compiled by Vietnamese Zen monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh and summarized here by me:
- Reverence for Life: Eliminate all forms of violence against one’s self, other human beings, animals, and nature.
- True Happiness: Practice gratitude and generosity and avoid stealing from or exploiting others.
- True Love: Cherish and celebrate others and practice sexual virtue in romantic relationships.
- Deep Listening and Loving Speech: Practice active listening and kind, helpful speech in order to facilitate equitable and peaceful relationships.
- Nourishment & Healing: Eat and drink in a manner that avoids bringing toxins or diseases into the body, and consume media of all forms in moderation.