It’s only a matter of time until one of Donald Trump’s minions says what’s currently unspoken out loud, namely that the administration’s declining interest in the COVID-19 epidemic is driven by the realization that its fatalities disproportionately impact people of color.
Compared to white cases, Black and Latinx people are three times more likely to be infected and nearly twice as likely to die. The New York Times had to sue the government to get this data, which included information from 974 counties amounting to half the U.S. population.
While some (mostly white) officials have pointed toward higher morbidity in minority groups as a cause of their higher rates of susceptibility, research paints a different picture.
Racism, not race, is the higher risk factor for dying of COVID-19.
- But some academics say that explanation isn’t a fair picture. University of Southern California neuropsychologist April Thames said racism is a chronic form of stress that can’t be treated medically.
- “There are certain stressors that are more frequent in ethnic, racial minority populations, for example poverty,” Thames said. “Then there’s a type of stresser that’s different, and that’s stress that’s directly tied to your race. It’s always in the air, if you will.”
- Thames says chronic stress for people of color is tied to uncertainty. Will I be stopped by a police officer today? Will I be judged? Will I be harassed?
- Thames and her colleagues looked into the science of how this anticipatory anxiety biologically affects the body. The research was published in 2019 in a peer-reviewed journal.
More people of color are frontline, essential workers who can’t stay home even if they wanted to. If you needed a more clear example of the constant reality of systemic racism, there it is.
Here’s Laura Clawson at Daily Kos:
- The new data makes clear that this is not just about people of color being vulnerable to the most serious forms of the virus because they have underlying conditions. Focusing on that explanation “makes me angry, because this really is about who still has to leave their home to work, who has to leave a crowded apartment, get on crowded transport, and go to a crowded workplace, and we just haven’t acknowledged that those of us who have the privilege of continuing to work from our homes aren’t facing those risks,” Dr. Mary Bassett, the director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, told the Times.
- Preexisting data back her up on those risks: 43% of Black and Latino workers are in the kinds of jobs that can’t be done remotely, compared with about one in four white workers. Latino people are twice as likely to live in close quarters as white people, and, as Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II put it: “You literally can’t isolate with one bathroom.” Black workers are also more likely than white workers to report having witnessed coronavirus-related retaliation by bosses.
- And the new data shows that it’s not just that Black and Latino people who contract COVID-19 are dying at a higher rate than white people who contract COVID-19. They’re also more likely to get the virus to begin with—and that’s substantially because of the racial (and racist) disparities in the U.S. economy.
Given evidence of racism throughout the administration’s policies, this explains Trump’s new strategy to simply hope we “grow numb” to tens of thousands of folks dying.
- The goal is to convince Americans that they can live with the virus — that schools should reopen, professional sports should return, a vaccine is likely to arrive by the end of the year and the economy will continue to improve.
- White House officials also hope Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day, according to three people familiar with the White House’s thinking, who requested anonymity to reveal internal deliberations. Americans will “live with the virus being a threat,” in the words of one of those people, a senior administration official.
- “They’re of the belief that people will get over it or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day,” said a former administration official in touch with the campaign.
As more people of color are dying from COVID-19, they are also being used as props by the President’s re-election campaign.
Rather than address public concerns about the federal government’s role in the pandemic, Trump has doled out daily doses of racism, hoping to keep the subject out of headlines.
From the New York Times:
- The remarks are part of a pattern. Almost every day in the last two weeks, Mr. Trump has sought to stoke white fear and resentment, portraying himself as a protector of an old order that polls show much of America believes perpetuates entrenched racism and wants to move beyond.
- Two weeks ago, the president retweeted a video of a supporter shouting “white power” at a retirement community filled with older people whom he wants to win over. Last week, he wrote that he was reviewing a fair housing regulation that is aimed at eliminating racial housing disparities in the suburbs, but that he said would have a “devastating impact” on those communities — a play to white suburbanites whose votes would be crucial to his re-election.
From Business Insider:
- President Donald Trump spent his Monday on Twitter making racist attacks, defending the display of the Confederate flag, attacking former Vice President Joe Biden on crime and the coronavirus, and claiming victory in his pandemic response.
The good news here is that American voters may be developing an immunity to the Southern Strategy that’s served Republican candidates so well, going back to Richard Nixon.
At the Times, David Leonhardt gives four reasons why this tactic is failing this time around:
- The country is changing. It becomes more racially diverse each year. And most Americans under age 35 are quite liberal. The horror of the George Floyd video and the ensuing protest movement have also changed the minds of many Americans.
- People are afraid. Historically, many white Americans didn’t see how racism hurt them, Belcher said. But he now hears white voters in focus groups say they’re worried that the country is coming apart. “They talk about, if we continue on this trajectory, it’s going to be dismal for our kids,” he said.
- Trump has gone too far. Most white Americans remain moderate to conservative on immigration, affirmative action and more. But many also believe police departments are biased, and many don’t like symbols of slavery. Reagan offered an optimistic, patriotic message that let many voters downplay or overlook his racial appeals. Trump is practically forcing voters to take sides on racism, Terrance Woodbury, another Democratic strategist, told CNN’s Ron Brownstein.
- Voters are simply too unhappy with Trump’s handling of the coronavirus. “As long as that’s true,” The Times’s Nate Cohn told me, “I don’t see how he has the freedom to employ wedge issues.”
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Lead image by Loco Steve via Flickr