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COVID-19 HIGHLIGHTS SYSTEMIC RACISM

By Shedrick Byrd

COVID-19 has highlighted the systemic and personal racism that exists against black people in America.  It highlights at least five factors that keep black people from progressing to an equal status with white Americans.  The five racist actions revealed to me are:  (1) Poor housing conditions for black people, (2) low and unfair wages, (3) poor healthcare, (4) unequal education and (5) unfair justice system for blacks.    

COVID-19 reveals these conditions in a simplistic and understandable way that every American and world citizens can comprehend.  The virus displays statistically the inequality that black people suffer and die from compared to our white counterparts.  When black people are wrapped in the five factors mentioned above its impossible or exceedingly hard for them to achieve equal status to whites in America.  These situations exist by design and can be rectified. 

Black people are red-lined when it comes to housing and living quarters.  In many cases blacks are grouped to live in congested and sometimes unfit conditions that are usually among other people who can hardly eke out a living.  This racism has been prevalent for years in America.  It used to be in any city or town when you asked where colored people lived the answer would be, “across the railroad tracks” or “in the projects”.  White racism by red-lining their housing guided blacks to locations that in many cases were unfit to live in and reeked with poisonous fumes from local factories and plants.  These were places where many blacks subsequently suffered lunge diseases, cancer and other health problems because of the environmental pollution where they lived.       

Blacks are relegated to minimum wage and low paying service jobs that require little education.  In many cases the pay is not enough to support a decent living.  During COVID-19 they are called “first responders” and “essential workers” because they are required to work while risking their health and lives so other Americans can stay home and be safe from the virus.  Many of the low paying jobs don’t have insurance coverage.  Some hire blacks as part-time workers to avoid having to pay for insurance coverage.  With better living wages blacks will be able to afford better living conditions and have the option to purchase more healthy food.   

Healthcare for blacks is minimal or non-existing.  A large number of black people in America don’t make enough money to afford good healthcare.  According to doctors during COVID-19 blacks who suffer high blood pressure and diabetes are more susceptive to the virus.  This has resulted in the high percentage of blacks dying after contracting the virus.  There was some hope when the Obama administration introduced “Obama Care”.  It gave many uninsured black Americans an opportunity to have insurance coverage, but the racist Republicans have been trying to take the coverage entirely away without a replacement. 

Quality education is limited for blacks.  In kindergarten to high school most black children learn in segregated school systems that do not offer enough financial support to provide them with an equal or quality education.  Most public schools are segregated because after integration public schools suffered from white flight.  Many whites who were able took their children out of public schools in favor of home schooling or private schools.   As a result funds to support public education were cut leaving schools with underpaid school teachers and limited learning materials. 

Most majority white Colleges are too expensive for many blacks who seek higher education unless they are athletics.  Therefore most of those who go to college attend one of the historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs).  Like secondary public schools HBCU’s are often not supported well enough financially to offer equal education opportunities to black students as their majority white counterparts. 

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The privately owned prison industry is built on incarceration of black people.  More blacks are in prison for non-violent crimes than any other race.  This has to stop so black men can enjoy wholesome lives with their children and family. Our justice system must be reformed and should not exist on the backs of blacks.

White people can’t say, “What’s wrong with colored people” any more because COVID-19 has revealed what’s wrong with black people.  All these conditions are by design and are intermingled.  They must be rectified before black people can have an equal opportunity in America.  Many blacks believe that the reparation of “40 acres and a mule” were promised by the U.S. Government after the civil war.  I believe the best action is for the U.S. government to recognize what COVID-19 has revealed and take progressive actions financially and lawfully to correct these ills.   

Shedrick Byrd is a frequent contributor to the New Journal and Guide and a formal U.S. Navy Equal Employment Opportunity Officer.

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