Repairing Us: The case for acknowledging the massive loss of life and opportunities in BIPOC communities due to COVID-19

We read the death toll numbers, infection rates and hear politicians, academics and business leaders speak generally about disparate impacts. However, I questioned the extent to which any have looked deeply into BIPOC communities’ losses during COVID-19. In this series, I will look at the meaning of data and map it to demonstrate just a few aspects of the impacts the pandemic has had on Black and Brown communities.

True to American revision and recharacterization of the experiences of frontline communities, we listen to the President give the “general” death count in public speeches. What is not given is the numerical, economic, cultural and social loss to African-American, Latinx and Indigenous communities. There is not only irony, but a particular pain in not realizing that when these communities went to the ballot box to install this Administration, they were voting for their lives. In this first visualization, we look deeply at African-American and Latina women in Newark, NJ, for whom social inequality has increased by double digits during the pandemic. Here’s why:

In a city where 47% of the population is of African descent and 39% are Latino, the median income is $32,000. That’s about half of the national median income (Datausa.io). When we look at women alone, in the innermost parts of the Black or Latina women make up more than half the population. The map below is colored darkest where they live in the highest concentration.

Color coded map of Black and Latina (Womxn) Populations in Newark, NJ

Higher than average numbers of these same two groups are heads of households and also engaged in essential work. They also bear more than a conceivable poverty burden.For each of these groups of women, the poverty rate at the last census was over 31% compared with the national level of 9.2% (Census 2020, incomplete). By our measure, that has gone up my one-percent and will trend higher until a recovery from COVID-19 and/or other assistance is provided. Until associated COVID-19 deaths are curbed, of the more than 561,000 new deaths in the U.S. as of this writing 2800 were in Essex, County NJ.

Using terms such as “Build Back Better” is an incomplete and unwittingly triggering rip from the humanitarian response system — one which has its own issues with revisionism and bias. The focus should be on building a better America, one where the marginalized, and those on the frontlines are uplifted, given full citizenship, actual inaction and protection in this country. The first step is understanding and addressing their true losses and experiences.

We want to thank the community for responding to our research questions, acknowledging that every hour doing so equated to an hour of lost wages or time with family. I would like to thank Social Explorer for creating and making this tool accessible to researchers, educators and communities to help make this information accessible. The full map “story” exploring this data in fuller detail can be found here: https://www.socialexplorer.com/fc226e0a17/view. This and other projects will be turned into lecture prompts to help educators teach, learn and become aware of these telling disparities.

Next week, I will show you how poverty and environmental hazards are increasing risk for people in Baltimore. I am looking forward to continuing all of this work and publishing the final analysis.

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Monica Sanders

Monica Sanders

monicacsanders.com; Professor at Georgetown;Senior Fellow, Tulane Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy; Activist-Scholar