COVID-19 Adds To The Impact Of Historic Discrimination

A sickly orange smoke pours from a smokestack
Pollution photo by Billy Wilson is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

America’s widest circulation newspaper, USA Today, has used its resources to find out who is being hit hardest by COVID-19 in the US. Picking six areas where there was a high proportion of illness and a high proportion of deaths, they dug deeper to understand more about why these areas and not others were so badly battered by the coronavirus.

In each area, it’s clear that historic decisions by business, private institutions and governments have played a significant role. Examples include

  • redlining, where properties were excluded from qualifying qualifying for mortgages
  • discriminatory lending practices, which excluded African Americans from qualifying for mortgages
  • per capita health funding at 25% of the national average
  • a factory emitting pollutants that register more than 20 times the permitted rate in the playground of a neighbourhood school

In each community, reporters connected with local leaders to talk about the combination of historic factors and COVID-19. Locally, people were very aware that the cards were not stacked in their favour from the start. They have been doing their best to follow health guidelines in very challenging circumstances. They have also been helping their fellow residents and hoping that things will get better. Efforts to right the historic discrimination have been set aside for now.

This is an ongoing series. Read the overview article in USA Today: ‘An unbelievable chain of oppression’: America’s history of racism was a preexisting condition for COVID-19

In-depth investigations in New Jersey and Louisiana are also available: In New Jersey’s most segregated county, racism and coronavirus made a ‘vicious circle’ and Racism turned their neighborhood into ‘Cancer Alley.’ Now they’re dying from COVID-19.

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