The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Been Overshadowed, But We're Still At Risk
Plus, police attack frontline medical workers, COVID-19 racial disparity deepens in UK, Black LGBTQ communities face unique vulnerabilities, rappers provide rent relief and testing, and more...
Speak Patrice Presents: Coronavirus News for Black Folks is an independent newsletter that aims to empower our community by sharing coronavirus (COVID-19) news and stories as they relate to the Black Diaspora. We have 1,452 subscribers as of June 1, 2020.
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Special update: I made a Patreon page!
I’ve had a lot of people ask how they can send funds to support my work, especially after my op-ed about Black journalists came out in the Times last Friday. At first, I shied away from accepting funds. Normally, I’m the first to advocate for myself, but the thought of accepting money in this economy made me uncomfortable. And how was I going to go about collecting this hypothetical money anyways? Venmo? Cashapp? Paid newsletter subscriptions? Would I scare people off? I would (unconvincingly) tell myself that I’d get around to figuring it out. Then the uncertainty of it all would wash over me, sending me deeper into a cycle of anxiety and avoidance.
But, in the past couple of weeks, I realized that I’ve been dodging the same advice I always dole out to my fellow Black journalists: Your work is valuable and you should be compensated as such. And so here I am with a brand new Patreon page.
*Keep in mind, the Coronavirus News for Black Folks newsletter will remain FREE and accessible to everyone who subscribes.*
However, those readers who would like to make a monthly contribution to support a Black woman independent journalist creating informative, empowering multimedia content for Black communities can now do so. I appreciate you either way, no judgement. We’re in the midst of two pandemics, after all…
Photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash
Welcome new subscribers! Greetings OG readers. Here’s where I stand with the newsletter in light of the recent uprisings:
On April 5, I launched this newsletter with the same mission I had set before venturing into journalism: to help empower Black communities throughout the African diaspora and to tell the stories that I had very rarely, if ever, read about or seen in the mass media.
Prior to the pandemic, I typically gravitated towards stories about TV, film, music, beauty, and the internet — basically any industry bursting with the same Black culture, Black history, and Black opportunity that it historically exploited, repressed, and erased. But then the coronavirus disease and pandemic emerged worldwide, posing a series of severely disproportionate threats to Black communities for a variety of reasons all rooted in systemic racism, neocolonialism, and white supremacy — and just like *that* the coronavirus pandemic eclipsed any desire to cover any other topic.
Fast forward to today, June 3. The same toxic soil that bore at least 21,878 avoidable Black deaths in a mere two months has been tilled anew and freshly fertilized. The cratered ground appears alien, apocalyptic. But everything remains the same.
The coronavirus is still here, and although the growth rate has stabilized, according to the New York Times, a “vast majority of people still remain vulnerable to the virus.” Police brutality is still here, having sparked an uprising throughout the U.S. and other international cities. Systemic racism, neocolonialism, and white supremacy? Still here.
And so many national and some local news publications have shifted a majority of the attention away from detailed coronavirus news coverage and towards the uprising and subsequent politics taking place nationwide. That’s why Coronavirus News for Black Folks will continue to focus mainly on the disease and pandemic as it relates to Black folks, I will also include practical guides and safety measures for protesting and share a modest round-up of non-coronavirus news regarding the uprising. Because, again, this is a newsletter on a mission to empower readers and fully represent the Black community.
How many Black people have died from coronavirus so far? At least 21,878…
“Collectively, Black Americans represent 13% of the population in all areas in the U.S. releasing COVID mortality data, but they have suffered 25% of deaths,” according to APM Research Lab. “21,878 Black Americans are known to have lost their lives to COVID-19 through Tuesday, May 26.”
Insights on disproportionality among black americans’ COVID-19 deaths include:
“Since we began reporting these data, Black Americans’ COVID-19 mortality rate across the U.S. has never fallen below twice that of all other groups, revealing a durable pattern of disproportionality.”
“The following 11 states have not yet publicly released COVID-19 mortality data with racial details: Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.”
“Murray, from Boston University, says that while difficult in practice, there are steps protesters can take to lessen their risk of infection: People can use signs, drums or noisemakers instead of yelling; carry a rope with knots every 6 feet to remind people to social distance; and encourage the use of hand sanitizer and masks.”
The problem, she says, is "when things start to escalate."
“Twenty minutes after leaving his job at a Brooklyn hospital on Saturday night, 32-year-old Rayne Valentine was lying in the fetal position on the sidewalk. He’d been beaten and kicked by New York police officers, his hospital ID smeared with his own blood, he told The Daily Beast.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every facet of American life, but perhaps no community has been affected as profoundly as Black LGBTQ people. People who live at this intersection of identity are not only more likely to face higher levels of scrutiny during a crisis in which racial minorities, especially Asian-Americans, are reporting a dramatic increase in hate crimes. They are vulnerable to the novel coronavirus in every conceivable way: from dramatic job loss to unique risks of infection that have yet to be adequately recognized by governmental authorities.”
“As a sociologist who studies the experiences of black health care workers, I fear that one unanticipated consequence of the coronavirus might be a setback of the modest advances the medical industry has made towards improving racial diversity among practitioners. Currently, despite being approximately 13% of the U.S. population, blacks constitute only 5% of all doctors and 10% of nurses.”
“Even after taking into account age, demographic factors and measures of self-reported health problems, black people were still almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than white people.”
“‘Each time this happens, the amount of energy and time it takes to recreate something that’s even as simple as what was destroyed is monumental…Even though the coronavirus isn’t the fault of a single person or leader, the impact of the devastation on the African American community is part of a long legacy of discrimination and segregation for black people and black businesses.’”
“The study also pointed out that 91 percent of disproportionately black counties are in the South, where many states have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving low-income adults without health insurance. Rural communities in the South also have fewer medical professionals and facilities.”
“…black Mainers accounted for 16.1 percent of total cases in which racial data was disclosed…That rate is more than 10 times the percentage of black and African American people living in Maine.”
“As residents of Minneapolis mourn and protest the death of George Floyd, the city’s Black community is also reeling from the coronavirus. Just as Floyd’s killing by a white police officer has resurfaced the effects of structural racism, the virus’ disproportionate impact has highlighted the lack of equitable healthcare access and other risk factors that have made African-Americans more vulnerable to COVID-19.”
“‘…yes, we care about the residents,’ Nyamwaya, who is originally from Kenya, said. ‘But who’s speaking for the caregivers?’ They’re getting sick, too. Earlier this month, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm cited statistics indicating that while black congregate health care workers make 19 percent of the industry’s workforce in Minnesota, they account for 43 percent of that workforce infected with the virus—the highest of any racial group.”
“Implicit bias exists. It negatively affects the care that black women receive. We should assume we have these biases and act to counteract them, because even if we as healthcare workers do not think we are biased, it is irrelevant — by definition, these biases are unconscious.”
“Black people are more likely to be stopped by police, they are less likely to get a fair trial, and their sentences are longer than those of white people convicted of the same crimes. And those systemic injustices have their own health consequences, beyond the most extreme form of a law enforcement officer taking the life of a citizen.”
“Contact tracing, that’s never going to work, particularly in the African American community where trust is a big issue, if we don’t have a solution that works directly with the black community…Solutions need to rely on existing institutions and supports such as churches, barbershops and community leaders, Lockhart said.”
“Aucoin’s comments, which were shown in a screenshot of the live stream, were in response to another user who described the coronavirus as the ‘virus that was created to kill all the BLACKS is death.’ The officer clearly responded with two statements, ‘Well it didn’t work.’ And directly under that comment he then said, ‘How unfortunate.’”
“…to mainstream society we’re just a number: ‘Oh a bunch of Black people died, they had high blood pressure already, they smoked a lot, they drank a lot.’ There’s no care. There’s no concern there.
But at the funeral, that was somebody’s daughter. That was somebody’s mother. She actually served as the president of the PTA. She actually developed a type of Meals on Wheels program for the elderly in her community. At the funeral, you get this three-dimensional, non-stereotypical image of Black folks in our last-rites rituals. And that’s very important. It’s communal, and COVID has definitely disrupted that.”
“While those quarantined with spouses, children, or roommates still have access to certain forms of touch, those who are living alone are likely experiencing some level of touch deprivation or skin hunger. This occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living beings which can result in loneliness, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, difficulty sleeping, and similar symptoms.”
“In light of the novel coronavirus pandemic plaguing the country, the host of the Midwest’s largest Black Pride has determined that the best way to keep its community spirits high and pride flowing, while maintaining safety, is to transition its annual core events to web-based and application platforms such as Zoom and Instagram.”
“‘The legacy of Cash Money belongs to the city of New Orleans,” he said in a statement. “There’s nothing more important to us than giving back to the brothers and sisters who live on those same streets we grew up on — from musicians to service workers to everyday working families. That’s what this label was always about.’”
“The mobile center can test up to 1,500 people a day with 14 staff people, TMZ reports. Tests are for everyone, but the priority is to provide testing to companies so they can check the health status of their workers.”
“The Marine veteran founded Melanin Enterprise, a mobile directory for Black businesses, as a safety resource for her kids. Then, it grew into something bigger.”
“As one of the first beauty brands to publicly support the Black Lives Matter movement, Glossier has pledged a total of $1 million to Black resistance causes and Black-owned beauty brands in the wake of the recent violence against Black people brought on by police.”
“Concerns about the influence of the equity group had previously been raised on social media by CharitySoWhite, a network of BAME people seeking to tackle racism within the charity sector.”
“Squad members posted a picture of the act on their social media accounts with the caption ‘Unity is strength #BlackLivesMatter.’”
Latin America & Caribbean —ICE has been testing migrants before deportation. But how it’s doing so is problematic
“Guatemala’s government has confirmed that some returning migrants are still testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, since being deported by ICE. All arrive with clean bill of health documents showing they had tested negative for COVID-19.”
“Thousands of people overall lost their homes in southern Puerto Rico because of recent strong earthquakes and in the northern Bahamas because of Hurricane Dorian, which hit September 2019 as a Category 5 storm, killing an estimated 70 people and leaving hundreds missing. Demolition on both islands hadn’t even started in some areas when the pandemic hit and lockdowns ensued, causing billions of dollars in economic losses in one of the world’s most tourism-dependent regions.”
“Whether it's been White people bemoaning the inconvenience of not being able to walk their dogs and go surfing or the very real threat of starvation and loss of livelihood for poor Black people, the lockdown restrictions have caused raging debates among South Africans.”
“Africa’s successes go seriously undercovered. For many years as a correspondent on the continent, I witnessed this in person; as a commentator, I’ve seen it ever since. A surge of democratization across the continent that began in the 1990s was treated as small beer by many editors—a secondary phenomenon never as sexy nor as noteworthy as the latest conflict somewhere.”
Louisiana — Coronavirus Devastates Black New Orleans: ‘This Is Bigger Than Katrina’ (Paywall)
“Who are Black Africans? Is that me – a second-generation black Nigerian (with known Afro-Brazilian and Sierra Leonean ancestry) or is it my aunty, a first-generation migrant of mixed European and Nigerian ancestry? Why is the data collected as simply Black African or Black Caribbean – a continent and a collection of islands – in contrast to individual South Asian countries?”
“These tears I cry today, however, and all the days before will not drown me. I will continue to use my voice, my knowledge, my power, my money, and every resource I have to save the African-American lives that are forgotten. No one who could stop his death spoke up for George Floyd, just as no one is coming to our rescue with COVID-19 with the speed and alacrity that was moved to get the SpaceX shuttle into orbit.”
⚠️NON-CORONAVIRUS NEWS, BUT IMPORTANT
“McAtee had been killed by law enforcement just after midnight on Sunday, May 31, amid days of protests over police violence nationwide. Noon the next day, protesters were gathered at the site. McAtee’s body was still there.”
“As the death of George Floyd continues to inspire both peaceful and not-so-peaceful protests all over the country, a Saturday demonstration in Omaha, Neb., resulted in the death of another black man after he was allegedly shot by a white bar owner.”
“AZ Family reports that Dion Johnson, a 28-year-old black man, was shot by a state trooper. The trooper noticed Johnson’s car was parked in the gore point off the Loop 101 freeway and was partially blocking traffic. The trooper found Johnson asleep in the driver’s seat. According to the officer, a struggle ensued that resulted in him firing his weapon at Johnson. A second officer arrived at the scene and helped remove Johnson from the car. Johnson was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.”
“‘I watched this man die. I was the one that was recording the whole thing. I've seen him die,’ Frazier said through tears. “I posted the video last night, and it just went viral. And everybody’s asking me how do I feel? I don’t know how to feel. Cause it's so sad, bro. This man was literally right here, 8:00 p.m. yesterday.’”
“Minneapolis police used neck restraints at least 237 times during that span, and in 16 percent of the incidents the suspects and other individuals lost consciousness, the department's use-of-force records show. A lack of publicly available use-of-force data from other departments makes it difficult to compare Minneapolis to other cities of the same or any size.”
“Several thousand people defied a virus-related ban on protests to pay homage to Floyd and Adama Traore, a French black man who died in police custody.”
“At some point, everyone reaches a limit where they can no longer sit back and stay silent about injustice in the world. However, if you do plan on attending a protest—even a peaceful one—there are some important precautions you should take with your phone before you go.”
I wrote an op-ed about the unique stressors that Black journalists like myself are facing as the Black community gets simultaneously hit by the coronavirus, police brutality, vigilante killings, and over-policed protests: Black Journalists Are Exhausted.
And then I spoke about it on CBSN AM. Thank you to anchors Anne-Marie Green and Vladimir Duthiers and producer Jonathan McDougle for having me on the show. [CBS]
Here’s a very helpful chart and prompt if you’re trying to figure out your role in a social change ecosystem.
Thank you to everyone who reached out with kind words and to our new subscribers.
— Stay safe and take care ✊🏿💗