The COVID-19 pandemic has fully exposed how the belief in a hierarchy of human value based upon skin color causes Black and Brown bodies to be utilized for essential work while not ensuring their safety and protection. This is a continuation of a long-held value in the United States—and other colonized nations—that sacrificing lives for the sake of the economy is not only inevitable but necessary for the country to thrive. The Darwinian “survival of the fittest” evolutionary theory was clear in defining the fittest as white, male and land owners.
COVID-19 is once again revealing how racism has dictated that Black bodies are to be devalued in service to Whiteness—and this racial capitalism must end. In many cases, we see that the people who are delivering our packages, shopping for our groceries, cleaning our hospital beds and cooking our meals are doing so without access to proper supplies and health coverage themselves. Being given the title of “essential worker” without substantive investment from our nation’s economy is a core component of the Black American experience. If we are to survive as a country, we must create policies and cultural shifts that hold individuals and systems accountable to end racism and undo its historic and current impacts. Only then can we begin to live up to our nation’s professed ideals.
JOIA ADELE CREAR-PERRY, MD, FACOG, is the Founder and President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. She is a proud recipient of the Congressional Black Caucus Healthcare Hero’s Award and the Maternal Health Task Force at Harvard University Global Visionary Award for Commitment to Advancing Women’s Health.