We must do better for people of color in CT

October 23, 2020

By: Ariella Mendoza Ozuna

A recent survey from the CT Mirror highlighted the disproportionate effect the pandemic is having in the Black and Latino community. The “State of Wellbeing” survey quantifies racial inequalities based on new data during the COVID-19 crisis. There is a saying that goes- “If a tree falls down in the forest, and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound?

Social institutions are failing people of color all over the U.S. However, it seems that these trees are falling, and though there are people around to hear them, they aren’t making a sound. While this data is a great development for research, as an Afro-Latina I wonder, like so many other people of color, is just knowing the facts enough?

Researchers have worked to find data to frame the health disparities brought by the COVID-19 pandemic in Black and Latino communities now more than ever before. I applaud their efforts in seeking the facts, but there’s a more gruesome reality that lies beneath the surface of this pandemic. Here are the main take-aways in Kasturi Pananjady’s analysis of the survey (linked below):

In Connecticut:

1. Black people reported lower levels of satisfaction in regard to how their employer viewed or provided their safety. They scored their safety level at a 68% as opposed to Whites, 87%, and Latinos, 89%. (These percentages can be affected by the different jobs operating in person or remotely as well as the Latino population being composed mostly of young adults.)

2. 1 in 5 Black residents have lost a family member or friend to COVID-19.

3. Latinos report twice the rate of job loss compared to White residents.

4. About 1 in 10 Latinos have lost health insurance coverage in the pandemic.

These facts are startling, but they aren’t new. The unrest felt these minority populations spans generations. These communities usually endure the worst-case scenario in social and economic disruptions.

Over the course of American history, Blacks and Latinos have been disproportionately affected in times of national distress. Though they have always been an essential part of the labor force, the wellbeing of Black and Latino people is not considered in times of crisis.

Although we are often at the lowest level in society in term of class, economics, and status, we are the most affected when these crises occur. You can try to turn a blind eye, but these events have a way of shoving the inequalities in the faces of those who ignore the reality of systemic racism. They expose a system of policies that, from their creation, have denied equal rights for the Black and Latino population in institutions of wealth, property ownership, education, and most prevalent at the moment, health.

Social determinants of health are affected by all these factors.

When you have reduced access to housing, you tend to live in higher populated areas. Higher populated areas are connected to poorer air quality, sanitation, higher crime rates, and food deserts. Those factors directly affect people who live in those communities.

They also majorly affecting their quality of life, safety, nutrition, mental health, and the potential risk of disease. As stated in Pananjady’s article, Black and Latino communities have higher rates of illness, such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, among others. These health conditions make people more susceptible to COVID-19, which explains the disproportionate number of deaths in the Black and Latino communities.

What can be done to adequately address these disparities? We need relief.

The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020 and offered a one-time check and increased employment benefits. Benefits which were not granted to everyone affected. It’s been about seven months since, and there has only been an increase in death, job loss, homelessness, and for some, even food rationing. No decision has been made on an extended relief package.

As a nation, its time make our voices heard and apply pressure to our representatives and our government leaders to make them to act now. The reality is, we’re all in the forest together and every day that passes, we’re left with fewer trees.

When we lose our fellow Americans, we lose a piece of our nation. There is strength in our diversity, and it’s time we preserve it.