Racial inequality has drawn wide criticism inside and outside the United States. President Joe Biden devoted his administration to advance racial equity as one of the four major priorities, calling for unity and healing as “a cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us” in his inaugural address. The new president has to contend with “a national reckoning on racial justice,” Time magazine reported.
In fact, racial injustice has long been a universal and systematic issue in the US and the eye-catching, news-making international headlines were only the tip of the iceberg. The challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic further reflect the systematic inequality that different races in the country face in terms of economic and social resources. Dr Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease who became the top US medical official addressing the coronavirus pandemic, called the higher infection and death rates of COVID-19 among minority communities a "very disturbing phenomenon."
“Look in our community: You see food deserts, transportation deserts and education deserts,” Dr Celia J. Maxwell, an infectious disease physician and associate dean at Howard University College of Medicine, was quoted as saying by National Geographic Magazine. “All the social determinants of health that you would look to in order to keep the community in good health are missing from our communities of color.”
The vulnerability of racial and ethnic minorities has been further exposed by the pandemic. According to a study issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2020, the number of African Americans without Medicare is 1.5 times that of white people and the number of Latin Americans without Medicare is over 2.5 times that of whites. The high medical expenses have forced racial and ethnic minorities to quit medical treatment.
The treatment of minority groups has been far from equal at hospitals. As the New York Times reported, studies reveal that the treatment of black patients was worse than that of white. As the US promotes COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccination rate among racial groups has a striking difference. A CNN analysis of data from 14 states found vaccine coverage twice as high among white people as among African Americans and Latin Americans.
Racial and ethnic minorities face a tougher economic situation. A New York Federal Reserve report found the COVID-19 economic shutdown has hurt African American businesses most among racial and ethnic groups in US, with a 41 percent decline of black owners from February to April. A Politico report said the politicization of the pandemic “hides an enduring reality that it’s Black, Latino and Native American populations that are bearing the brunt of the disease.”
The wealth gap and inequity among different racial groups has widened with the pandemic. Banks have rejected loans to African Americans at a higher rate than white applicants and often they need to pay a higher interest rate. Ron Busby, CEO of US Black Chambers Inc. says it’s more difficult for African Americans to get help from the financial assistance projects of the federal government.
Polls show a majority of Americans dissatisfied with the racial situation in the US. But reforms related to racial inequality have often been aborted due to various political reasons. In recent years when racial conflicts broke out, the US federal government wasn’t able to stick to the moral bottom line.
Some US politicians are addicted to using racial issues as weapons of political assault and increasingly stoke public dissatisfaction. Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, told the Stanford Business Graduate School Leadership for Society podcast that the US government needed to start taking actions to change racial discrimination in the country and “translate that activism and move it towards strategic action.”
Lack of racial equality pushes away racial justice and ignites the flames of racial fury. US citizens need systematic concrete actions.
(Compiled by Han Xiaomeng)