By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that African Americans make up 13.4 percent of the U.S. population. However, that portion of the population is being disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus, and when partnering those statistics with homicide rates and health figures (heart disease, diabetes, etc…), keeping it real, Black folks are sick and tired of being sick and dying. 

APM Research Lab compiled data from 38 states and Washington, D.C. and found that the mortality rate for African Americans is 2.3 times higher than the rate for Asians and Latinos and 2.6 times higher than the rate for Whites.  The research showed that for each 100,000 Americans, 37.2 Blacks have died, 16.0 Asians, 15.9 Latinos and 14.3 Whites.

“To put it plainly: If Black Americans had died of COVID-19 at the same rate as White Americans, about 9,000 of the nearly 15,000 Black residents who have died in these states would still be alive,” APM Research Lab wrote.

Montee Harris listens during a protest outside of the City County Building, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Indianapolis. The crowd was protesting the fatal shooting Wednesday evening by an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

COVID-19 is indiscriminate.  For a while misinformation was rampant, leaving some African Americans to believe they could not even get the potentially fatal disease.  Statistics have disproven that misguided and fallacious rumor, and the proof of its falsity is in the buried bodies.

We’re losing parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sons, daughters, dear friends and community leaders.  

As sad as the adage is, it’s a hard truth that when “White America gets a cold, Black America gets the flu,” and that’s due in part to predisposed health challenges and the systemic issues that have been holding African Americans back all along.  

Looking at health- according to Heart.org, the prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans is the highest in the world and heart disease is the number one killer among African Americans.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Services Office of Minority Health, African American adults are 60 percent more likely than White adults to be diagnosed with diabetes by a doctor.

Looking at trauma surrounding violence and homicide for African Americans- just this past week two young Black men were in the news for having been murdered after “living while Black.”  On May 6 Sean Reed, 21, was shot and killed while running from a police officer and streaming the incident on Facebook Live.  Police said Reed had been driving recklessly, almost hitting vehicles, and an officer began a car chase, that moved from the car to on-foot, and ultimately the 21-year-old’s death. Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was on a run through a residential neighborhood, when a White father and son duo killed him in broad daylight on February 26.  It took a video to surface, public outcry and the case’s third prosecutor to arrest and charge the White father and son Gregory, 64 and Travis, 34 McMichael on May 7.   

The violence and unrest during these already uniquely trying times, has jolted outrage on social media and trending memes and posts about the injustices Black people face.  The general consensus is Black folks are tired of being sick and dying.

“Black people are so tired,” began one long trending Facebook post that uses hashtags of fallen African Americans who were doing everyday things and ended up losing their lives.  

“We’re tired. Tired of making hashtags. Tired of trying to convince you that our #BlackLivesMatter too. Tired of dying,” reads the end of the post.

COVID-19 is emphasizing and re-exposing the pre-existing issues Black communities have faced, such as lack of access to sufficient healthcare, transportation and affordable housing and the need to work in essential roles despite the pandemic.  The contribution of sociological and physiological struggles such as environmental racism, predisposition to health issues and high violence and homicide rates, makes this COVID-19 battle even harder. 

“COVID-19 has highlighted health and economic disparities we’ve long known about in the Black community,” said Marcus Goodwin, who is a candidate for the At-Large City Council seat and former President of the D.C. Young Democrats.

Goodwin said he hopes these unprecedented times can be used as a means for progress and change for African Americans and the Black community as a whole.

“I want us to take this opportunity both personally and structurally to begin bridging the gap,” Goodwin said. “Personally we can improve our diet and exercise.  Structurally we can improve the healthcare system and provide healthier food options in Black communities.”

Veda Rasheed, who is running for the Ward 7 Council position, expressed her concern for residents in her Ward, who are being disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus.  Ward 7 is a predominantly Black ward, and according to DC Health Matters, has the second-lowest population in the District.  However, Ward 7 has the third-highest COVID-19 positive cases in the District.

“Our citizens are suffering disproportionately from the Coronavirus Pandemic” said Rasheed. “This is completely unacceptable and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and take Ward 7 to its next level.” 

Goodwin said that the upcoming election is a good moment for Washingtonians to demand change and action to close the disparities.

“The people shouldn’t accept anything less than a clear plan to address these inequities going forward.  We should use the 2020 election as the starting point for structure and accountability,” Goodwin added.

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor