As states begin to reopen and we start to take small steps towards normalcy, it’s easy to get entranced by the idea that things are finally getting back to the way they used to be.
In many states, you’re now able to get a haircut, or grab a beer at your local establishment.
But as you put on your face mask to meet up with a friend for the first time in weeks, and that feeling of ordinariness begins to manifest, it is important that we do not forget what we learned during this time.
We must remember that things are getting back to the way they used to be, and that is the problem.
At one point during the COVID-19 crisis, New York suffered what some people called a “9/11 every day” because the number of lives they were losing daily surpassed that of the 9/11 attack.
COVID-19 has highlighted the ills of the socio-economic disparity that many people in America face every day.
The fact of the matter is that years of disenfranchisement and systematic discrimination has resulted in Black, brown, and other minority communities being left vulnerable.
Statistically speaking, Black people live further away from grocery stores and hospitals. Multi-generational households are common in Black communities and Black Americans are twice as likely to be uninsured compared to white Americans. To add, nearly a quarter of employed Black and Latinx Americans work in the service industry.
Imagine being an essential worker living in a multi-generational household in a densely populated area. You rely on public transportation and your employer doesn’t offer sick leave.
The idea of possibly exposing my family to this virus because I was trying to make rent to support my family is a sick, twisted Catch-22 that results in my grandmother being exposed, or me not being able to pay rent.
Underlying medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease run rampant in Black communities making a population of people even more vulnerable to succumbing to this virus.
All of these factors are the result of institutional racism that have left Black, brown, and other minority communities vulnerable.
Stephen Thomas from Maryland Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland School of Public Health said, “The data is clear and has been clear for decades: African Americans, Latinos and other minority groups live sicker and die younger.”
In Chicago, Black people makeup 30% of the population but account for 56% of COVID-19 deaths. In New York, Black people are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 compared to white people.
Black, brown, and our most vulnerable communities like those experiencing homelessness and incarcerated individuals must not be forgotten.
It looks like we’re going to be wearing face masks for a while.
The simple act of wearing a mask is showing empathy in a small way. You wear a face mask for not just yourself. You wear a face mask for your neighbor, your brother, your mother, and the person across town you don’t even know.
For this I believe wearing a face mask is a great reminder of what we have experienced and what we have to do to address the disparity among our communities.
The idiom, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” is just as true for sports teams as it is for us as a society.