Black Death Series Part II graphic

BLACK DEATH

Part 2
The Socioeconomic and Racial Factors

Black people in America have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic for several different reasons, including socioeconomic and racial barriers in America. 

Former President Barack Obama said it best…

Let’s analyze some of these socioeconomic and racial factors:

HOMELESSNESS & POVERTY

In this must-read article from The Atlantic, author and Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University Ibram X. Kendi reveals this alarming statistic:

In the end, though, no group of Americans may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the incarcerated and the homeless. About 40 percent of people experiencing homelessness are black, triple their share of the U.S population. 

Furthermore, the annual Homeless Assessment Report, released earlier this year, revealed that of the estimated 568,000 Americans that experienced homelessness in 2019, black people made up 40 percent of that number, despite making up only 13 percent of the nation’s population.

The report compares those numbers with whites and Latinos experiencing homelessness in America:

In contrast, 48% of all people experiencing homelessness were white compared with 77% of the total U.S. population, while people who identify as Hispanic or Latino represented about 22% of the homeless population, but only 18% of the overall population.

Let’s break this down:

  • Population

    There were about 328,200,000 people in the U.S. in 2019 – 568,000 experienced homelessness

  • Demographics

    42,666,000 were black (13 percent) and 252,714,000 were white (77 percent)

  • Comparison

    Of those that experienced homelessness, 227,200 were black (40 percent) and 272,640 were white (48 percent)

Many have pointed towards underlying health concerns as the key culprit in the disproportionate amount of black deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, but those health concerns are often a result of the poverty that runs rampant through the black community, which includes homelessness.

Plainly put, black America is significantly poorer than white America, and that affects not only housing and medical issues, it affects food and hunger concerns.

According to FeedingAmerica.org

African American households have significantly lower household incomes than white, non-Hispanic households. African Americans are also more than twice as likely to face hunger. The 10 counties with the highest food insecurity rates in the nation are at least 60% African American. Seven of the 10 counties are in Mississippi. Poverty rates for African Americans are more than twice that of white, non-Hispanic individuals. 9% of African Americans live in deep poverty (less than 50% of the federal poverty threshold).

ONE THING TO READ

The Black Plague

By Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

The New Yorker

RACISM

The Homeless Assessment Report also touches on the racial inequalities that cause homelessness in America:

Advocates point to the compounding effects of long-standing discrimination and inequalities within the country’s housing, criminal justice and health care systems to explain why African Americans make up such a large portion of the homeless population compared with their overall proportion of the general population.

Racism in the criminal justice system has long-affected black and brown people across the United States. In fact, as reported by The Atlantic, according to the Pew Research Center, “Brown and black people comprise 56 percent of the prison population, doubling their combined share of the U.S. adult population.”

In recent weeks, lawmakers have reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to gather the same statistics on COVID-19 testing in low-income areas, primarily made up of black and brown people. 

These lawmakers include Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, as well as U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley.

“Decades of structural racism have prevented so many Black and Brown families from accessing quality health care, affordable housing, and financial security, and the coronavirus crisis is blowing these disparities wide open,” Warren said in a statement. “We need the government to step up in a big way to ensure that communities of color have equal access to free testing and treatment.”

The reason that lawmakers are pursuing this data is because the federal government has yet to provide it. The demographics would undoubtedly tell the story of how black people in America are even more disadvantaged than previously believed. 

In fact, the small amount of data that has been released already tells that story. Take this chart for example, which was compiled by The Associated Press:

In most of the states that are reporting on the virus from a demographics standpoint, the percentage of black deaths significantly outweighs the percentage of black people in the state. 

Again, let’s explain this: Hypothetically, let’s say you live in a state with 1 million people. Of those 1 million people, 700,000 are white and 300,000 are black. 

In that state, there are 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, and, like in Mississippi for example, 66 percent of the deaths are black people. That would mean that 198,000 of the 300,000 black people in the state have died. 

Seems like a crazy statistic, right? It’s not.

According to the above chart, here are the percentages of black deaths in these states:

  • Mississippi

    76 percent

  • Louisiana

    65 percent

  • South Carolina

    56 percent

  • Georgia

    55 percent

  • Alabama

    54 percent

These numbers are not a coincidence, and our nation must address these racial and socioeconomic issues in a timely manner, or black people will continue to suffer for generations to come.