I’ll start by heading off the near-inevitable “What about White people” pushback whenever someone else mentions a unique and more intense version of hell that Black and Brown folks are experiencing.
Sure — coronavirus doesn’t ask for skin color when it enters and removes your body from the planet. No one should argue that.
But I’ve been telling friends for weeks that Black neighborhoods are not designed to withstand disease invasions of almost any kind, let alone COVID-19.
And the reason is deeper than the mainstream talking points about diseases that preexist in these communities.
Public health researchers have been telling us for years that the following drivers determine whether or not residents will live full and healthy lives
- Education and training
- Community network and support resources
- Economic opportunity (e.g., employment, wealth, and debt)
- Physical environment (e.g., parks, housing, walkable spaces and playgrounds)
- Access to healthcare
- Healthy food access
Rich communities have these six drivers. Poor communities don’t.
Think of a neighborhood that doesn’t have access to these drivers — or the drivers a neighborhood is able to access are of poor quality — and you’ll also see a neighborhood where people die before their time — infants and adults included.
You can’t simply choose which drivers an unhealthy neighborhood should access — all neighborhoods need all the drivers.
And the drivers need to work together, typically created and implemented through government policies.
For example, government policies determine where toxic-emitting chemical factories are located — and you can bet most factories aren’t built near mansions.
Government policies — in collaboration with private sector firms — can target neighborhoods for training, which can help residents launch new careers.
I’ll repeat this for the silver bullet seekers: these policies need to affect all drivers — called “social determinants of health” by most research and public health circles — in order for neighborhoods to thrive.
Otherwise, more of the neighborhoods’ residents will die.
Decades of government policies have ravaged Black, Brown or otherwise poor neighborhoods through waves of direct attacks on these social determinants.
You can’t call this undeclared war on communities of color anything else than textbook racism and bias.
We need to widen our strategic viewpoint beyond the risk coronavirus presents to communities with high instances of diabetes, since addressing the social determinants of health could have mitigated the risk of diabetes and other diseases in the first place.
Or perhaps unenlightened. Let’s make them aware …
song currently stuck in my head: “wise women” – moonchild