May 11, 2020
By Jazmine Logan, Civil Rights Equity Division
Amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic, industries and social service systems such as the healthcare system, non-profit organizations, and local government, will be making difficult decisions that will impact medical care, job security, and access to resources. These decisions are not easy, but for many of our communities, the implications of decisions made today will have lasting impacts for months, years, and generations to come. During this time, we must not only think critically about what decisions will be made, but we must be intentional in centering race and equity in informed decision-making processes.
The current global pandemic has already yielded findings of disparity across various communities, notably within the healthcare system. In major cities around the United States, rates for confirmed cases of the virus and deaths related to Covid-19 complications show a disproportionate amount of people of color being impacted by this virus. According to the APM Research Lab, findings show that of the states and local cities reporting Covid-19 cases and deaths by race, Black people make up just 13% of those populations, yet, this population has suffered 32% of the reported Covid-19 deaths in these areas. There have also been findings of rates of disproportion for Latinx communities in states such as New York, where Latinx people have suffered 23% of the deaths despite making up just 19% of the population, and for Asian communities in places like California, where they account for close to 15% of the population but hold 17% of the states deaths from Covid-19. Racial disparity in health outcomes and health care have long persisted. Even before the outbreak of Covid-19 within the United States, research had shown evidence of what is known as a racial empathy gap for communities of color within the healthcare system, affecting the level of empathy, and thus, level of care, they are shown when dealing with pain, illness, and other chronic and outstanding medical issues.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, people of color make up a large sector of essential workers, with higher rates of African American, Latinx, and Indigenous people holding occupations within service industries, including those of hospitality, restaurants, and retail. They may occupy jobs that put them in closer proximity with other people and increase their risk of contracting the virus. In addition, occupations in these industries can make workers more susceptible to wage cuts, lay offs, and thus, financial insecurity.
While we must account for historic and systemic policies and barriers that have undoubtedly impacted communities of color - positioning them to be increasingly vulnerable and at risk for negative health conditions, with lower access to healthcare, community resources, and higher social, economic, and political power - it is also increasingly necessary to evaluate the processes used in decision-making.
When in spaces where decision-making is happening, we should all work to employ a Racial Equity Impact Analysis to reflect on how the impending decision(s) will impact community, and which communities will be most impacted. The Center for Social Inclusion defines racial equity as both an outcome and a process. As an outcome, racial equity is achieved when race no longer determines one’s socioeconomic outcome when everyone has what they need to thrive, no matter where they live. As a process, racial equity occurs when those most impacted by structural racial inequity are meaningfully involved in the creation and implementation of the institutional policies and practices that impact their lives.
The City of Minneapolis’s Office of Race and Equity has developed Covid-19 Rapid Response Racial Equity Impact Analysis to ask these questions:
- What are the racial equity impacts of this decision? Who will be most positive impacted? Who will be most negatively impacted? What are the racial implications of this decision?
- Who will benefit from and/or be burdened by this decision?
- Are there strategies to mitigate any unintended consequences of this decision? What can be done now to limit negative outcomes for communities after a decision has been made?
For our youth, this pandemic will determine the path for their generation, transforming how they experience the world around them, their interactions, and their social existence. For others, their generation will be further defined by this moment, with job security in flux, opportunities for wealth accumulation and socioeconomic movement strained, and impacted ability to work towards social life milestones, such as homeownership, career movement, attainment of higher education, and more. For some, this time may be a stark reminder of the racial and socioeconomic inequalities and inequities that have long remained in their communities. To them, these times will be reminiscent of circumstances that previously defined and influenced their generations, impacting their current social status, economically, politically, and culturally.
For all of us, this is traumatic. This is an experience that is altering our lives, generations, and communities in ways that we can see and in ways that we may not feel for years to come. It is forcing us to envision a new normal, to reflect upon how we lived and how we will live going forward. Furthermore, it is casting light on systemic inequities and barriers that have persisted and are now being exacerbated in the face of this pandemic. In this time, there must be intentionality in centering race and equity in every process of decision-making, at every level, in every sector, so that all of our communities are protected, cared for, and supported during this pandemic and for generations to come.