Undercounted and On the Frontline

I may be stuck out here in a world all by myself, but I am not the least bit surprised by the percentage of Blacks, Latinos and Asians that are impacted by this coronavirus.  And I am really going out on a limb to say that it is not because of pre-existing medical conditions, Vitamin D deficiencies, or any absence of ultraviolet radiation, or because Black people are not getting enough sunlight! 

Not that I am negating these factors or drifting from the reality of America’s pre-existing health care disparities and a high propensity towards racial injustices that manifest its ugly self through the exploitation of Blacks for medical experimentations and the inferior quality of healthcare in Black zip codes.

Nor am I suggesting that America is not in a national healthcare crisis.  Yes, there is a pervasive billow of medical racism and beyond the flicker of conspiracy theories about COVID-19, vaccine technologies, and experimental drugs, the smoldering facts are there to confirm the unfair use of Africans, Blacks in America, Black Britons, and people of color across the globe as medical guinea pigs.

For the past three to four weeks it has become clear that Blacks in New York, in Georgia and many states in America, as well as in London, are significantly impacted by this deadly pandemic.  But it’s not so much because Blacks are more susceptible; it’s because we are more available.  First and foremost, we suffer from a significant undercount and the other key factors is the fact that the “working class” population in urban centers like New York, Atlanta and London are Blacks and other people of color.

Blacks and Latinos are on the frontline in many of these death traps we call nursing homes, the frontline in most of the so-called essential services, frontline as government workers, frontline as first responders, and we are on the frontline serving families and communities.

Journey back with me to the Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia in 1793.  Also known as the American Plague, the deadly epidemic devastated the city, taking more than 5,000 lives.  Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer to the Declaration of Independence and a pioneer in American medicine, requested the assistance of respected Black leaders Bishop Richard Allen and Rev. Absalom Jones.  Rush felt that Blacks were immune to Yellow Fever and thus not susceptible to the disease.  Despite the flagrant acts of discrimination and the blatant culture of injustice against Blacks, Bishop Allen and Rev. Jones committed the assistance of the Free African Society and they were thrust into the frontline of the Yellow Fever epidemic, serving as nurses, caregivers, grave diggers, garbage collectors, clerks, transportation workers and handymen who would take away corpses that no one else would touch.  In the end, Blacks died at almost the same rate as Whites with more than 300 of them losing their lives.

COVID-19, like the American Plague in 1973 Philadelphia, is again an unequal burden for Blacks in America.  Our unequal share of deaths is intrinsically linked to our unequal share of work coupled with our preponderance as city dwellers and our mid- to low-end level places on America’s workforce ladder.  Any careful review of Blacks in America’s workforce will reveal our very huge percentage in every form of government and in key institutions and para-government agencies covering healthcare, transportation and social and community services.

I have long advocated the need for Blacks to expand our workforce reach more deeply into the corporate mainstream and the development and expansion of small businesses.  In New York, Blacks represent approximately 15% of the state’s population but more than 29% of the state’s labor force – and in New York City, Blacks are more than 43% of the general workforce yet only 25% of its documented population.  Sadly, these numbers change drastically at the middle-management, management, and executive levels, leaving Blacks and Latinos to take the fall as government workers and laborers.

And finally, it’s about the count which forces a more comprehensive look at the matrix.  As a pollster, I invest much of my time looking at numbers, reviewing stats and comparing data.  According to the California State Department of Health, 11.8% of the deaths in that state are Black while it is noted that Blacks represent only 6% of the population.  In the city of Chicago, approximately 53% of the population is Black and Blacks represent roughly 68% of the deaths; in Georgia, Blacks account for some 30% of the population and 36% of the COVID-19 patients; and finally, in Ohio, Blacks make up 13% of that state’s population and are 24% of the coronavirus cases.

Let me break it to you:  in every state and every city and hamlet in America, the Black population is grossly undercounted.  The Christian Times has been surveying and studying the Black population in America for more than 26 years, and the fact is that in some instances our numbers double.  Consumer patterns, crime statistics, DMV visits and just the visual movements of people groups are clear indicators that we are much more than the numbers reveal.  Thus, in the end, we are counting actual hard numbers of patients and deaths, and then measuring it against census data that probably reflects between 40 to 70 percent of the actual Black population.  The difficult truth, as I have discovered, is that where it would serve the benefit of our race, our numbers are greatly understated, and where it will hurt, they are overstated.  While this might not be a deliberate conspiracy on anyone’s part, this season must serve as a wake up call for Blacks in America.

Is it truly that Blacks are outspending our racial counterparts – or is that our spending represents hard numbers, but our census count does NOT?  Is it that more Blacks are falling victim to the coronavirus – or is it the fact that we represent a much large population than our census count?  I think the latter!
This being the year of the US Census, a good demonstration of our power is for Blacks in America to fill out the Census in record numbers.  Only when our Census count gets on par with our counterparts can we have a fair assessment of the impact of this and other health related challenges on Blacks in America – notwithstanding the validity of Los Angeles preacher Rev. Eddie Anderson’s statement:  “The coronavirus may be getting us sick, but it is America’s injustices that are killing us.”