Through the invisible war that is COVID-19, Black people are dying at a rate nearly 2 times higher than the population share. The Antiracist Research & Policy Center is helping Black communities on the local level to create overall national change. The organization is armored for the fight against coronavirus with the one thing the government can’t ignore: data. In partnership with The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic, the center has launched The COVID Racial Data Tracker, providing race and ethnicity data in real-time. We are facing a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a political crisis simultaneously. As states open back up and the police continue to use physical and chemical violence against civilians, this tracker is essential to ensuring that money goes directly to our communities.
The COVID Racial Data Tracker serves to highlight inequalities within public health. Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, who directs The Antiracist Research & Policy Center, explains to ESSENCE, “Racial data allows us to communicate with precision which groups are more at risk—and where—and to provide policymakers with the ability to make evidence-based policy decisions to curtail health disparities during the pandemic.” States and territories have provided race and ethnicity information for 90% of the deaths, 50% of positive cases, and 2% of tests. The policy center via the data tracker is putting pressure on states to report more efficiently, effectively, and frequently.
Disproportionate reporting of information can lead to misguided headlines in media, skewed data reporting, and lack of public funds for communities needing assistance. Dr. Kendi divulged, “Some states are reporting Native Americans as a part of a larger ‘other’ category, some are not really reporting Latinx data at all.” Advocating for consistency in data has a direct correlation to ensuring our communities get the public dollars we need for our health and safety. Kendi added, “It would not surprise me if in certain states the percentage of Latinx people who’ve tested positive is an astronomically high percentage so therefore they have decided to hide that data by not reporting those people. We already know some governors and some states have manipulated data when they were making a case that their states were ready to re-open.”
When we have 1 in 7 Americans out of work and needing access to money, the critical question at hand is—who are they are reopening for? Georgia was the first state to reopen and the data from the tracker reveals an unequal danger to Black and Brown communities. “The top four counties in the country right now with the highest death rates per capita are all in Georgia. In all four of those counties, the largest racial group are Black people.”
Work conditions and economic disparities further disenfranchise Black bodies. According to the CDC, “African Americans make up 12% of all employed workers but account for 30% of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.” Further, essential workers goes beyond the medical field. They include restaurant workers, retail workers, transportation workers and more. And many of these jobs don’t offer paid sick leave.
Dr. Carmen Rojas, the incoming president of The Marguerite Casey Foundation, recommends, “Until we have a test or universal testing that’s accessible to everybody, I don’t think we need to open our economy at the expense of the most marginalized working people in our country.” The Marguerite Casey Foundation is fueling the COVID Racial Data tracker by allocating $300,000 of a $3.5M grant issued to several organizations and projects to its continued work.
In our current climate, people are forced to choose between their economic livelihood and their health. There are individuals who work in jobs where they think they might have COVID-19 or been exposed to someone with the virus, but they go to work anyway to support themselves and their families. Dr. Rojas shares with ESSENCE, “We keep on hearing that folks are getting exposed by necessity. Our political and corporate leaders are killing us.”
Analyzing the data, Dr. Kendi reveals, “Latinx people who are infected seem to be rising in many states. It’s not curbing downward as you would imagine it would as we talked about it for two months.”
Dr. Rojas emphasized how chemical warfare used by police could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases, “You are creating a condition both through exposing people to a toxin and through the moisture that will only increase people’s ability to get sick.” Police tactics to disperse crowds with tear gas and pepper spray has a direct effect on our respiratory system by inducing unnecessary droplets. Our public officials are illustrating that Black Lives Don’t Matter when they outfit the police in riot gear while medical workers struggle for PPE. These are public policy choices.
Implementing checks and balances through programs like the data tracker serves as ammo for change. Dr. Rojas shares, “We have an opportunity to create and build a country that imagines and supports all of us to live lives of dignity.”
ESSENCE is committed to bringing our audience the latest facts about COVID-19 (coronavirus). Our content team is closely monitoring the developing details surrounding the virus via official sources and health care experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Please continue to refresh ESSENCE’s informational hub for updates on COVID-19, as well as for tips on taking care of yourselves, your families and your communities.