The Effects of a Broken Healthcare System on Black Americans
The Effects of a Broken Healthcare System On Black Americans
“They’re trying to kill us,” said Craig Bowie, an Atlanta school counselor.
This is the sentiment expressed by many Black people in regards to COVID-19. Yes, it is extreme, but that is how many feel. So many states across the United States are allowing small businesses like barbershops, nail salons and gyms to open back up despite the pandemic still growing. Because Black people frequently visit and operate these same small businesses, some, like Carlton Mcdonough, an Atlanta engineer, who couldn’t help but express his feelings on the effects on Black people.
“I honestly believe that the government is treating us like guinea pigs. Everything in Atlanta is opening back up despite a whole pandemic. People are still getting sick and dying. And then they opened up the barbershops and nail salons, and everyone knows those are two places where Black people stay at,” said Mcdonough, “Of course, you can’t prove it, but I don’t believe in coincidences. We’re dying more than any other race from corona.”
Are Black people dying at a higher rate?
Simply put, yes. Let’s dive deeper into the data that Mcdonough was referring to.
Louisiana – 70 percent of the people who have died are black, though only a third of that state’s population is.
Alabama – Black people account for 44 percent of the deaths and 26 percent of the population.
Fulton County, where Atlanta is located, is 43.2% Black, has 1,635 cases and 52 deaths; more than a tenth of state’s.
The numbers tell us “what” is happening, but neglect why. Why are Black people dying at a much higher rate than any other race?
In a recent interview with the New Yorker, Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, discussed the copious health disparities and inequities in certain communities.
In regards to how COVID-19 disproportionately impacts Black people, Krieger said, “They are more likely to live in crowded conditions, to work in service jobs that put them in close proximity to others, to have to go to work because they can’t afford to miss it, to take public transportation, and to lack access to protective gear at work. They are also more likely to have pre-existing health conditions that increase the risk from COVID-19, and to lack access to health care and health insurance.”
The economic struggles surrounding the hand Black people have been dealt aren’t new, however COVID-19 has shone a light on the health disparities several Black people face. To bring this point even closer to home, Gov. Brian Kemp reopened Atlanta on April 24. Many businesses like bowling alleys, restaurants, movie theatres, nail salons and barbershops were cleared to resume business as usual despite the advice of health experts.
Even Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said, “by opening hair salons and barbershops, these nail salons and these nonessential businesses, we know that Black people are dying at much higher rates, and when you have people flocking into barbershops and hair salons, it’s not only a risk for the people who work in those salons, it’s a risk for a community as a whole that concerns me greatly.”
When Kemp decided to reopen Atlanta, it did nothing to help the huge distrust so many Black people already have with the government. Nicolas Mathurin, barber at Blessed Up Barbershop in Atlanta, shared similar views when he found out what the Governor did.
“It’s so stupid for everything to open back up. I feel that it is way too soon. These small businesses really shouldn’t be open, and it is definitely going to negatively affect black businesses,” Mathurin said.
Knowing the COVID-19 data and knowing its ability to spread quickly to those with predisposed health issues, why open up businesses that particularly involve hand-to-hand interaction?
You can’t cut hair without touching the entirety of someone’s head, and you can’t paint nails without touching someone’s hands or feet. While gloves and masks will certainly be used, the nature of these businesses completely disregard social distancing.
My hope is to amplify the concerns of a community ravaged by a pandemic, but ignored by leadership. Economic inequalities create physical consequences that can’t be fixed because of economic equalities, which causes the disparities to repeat for generations. Without drastic changes to our healthcare system, conditions will get much worse before they get better.
People are still getting very, very sick, and now is not the time to reopen. No one should be forced to choose between their jobs (which often provide them with healthcare) or their lives (which are hard to live without income).
Tying healthcare to employment in a country currently housing 14 million unemployed citizens is more than illogical. For some Americans, it’s a death sentence.
Don’t listen to the governor. Don’t be fooled into believing this pandemic is over. Your line up (or hairline, for non-black folks) and your new nail set can both wait.
Stay safe. Stay inside.