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The Color of Coronavirus

The Color of Coronavirus


Alejandra Salemi, MPH
There is so much to be considered right now in the time of pandemic, death, and disease. Without a doubt, we need to recognize how it is disproportionately affecting communities of color.

As we are now at more than 60 days of social distancing in Florida, reopening our state and facing the peaks of COVID-19 as it impacts this country, it is becoming clear that social disparities, which were underlying the narrative of communities of colors in all pockets of America, are some of the most dangerous risk factors for severe morbidity or mortality from this virus.

The CDC recently found that about 33% of the people who have been hospitalized by COVID-19 have been African-American or black despite this race representing only 13% of the American population.It also should come as no shock that New York state, one of the hardest-hit places in the world during this pandemic, is experiencing disproportionate rates of infections and death among black and brown (Latino/a) communities. 

Let us not forget our other siblings in other margins of our country also experiencing severe versions of this pandemic. Our Native American communities across the state are some of the hardest-hit communities when it comes to rates of infections, with reports stating the Navajo Nation in the Southwest U.S. has more confirmed cases of COVID-19 per capita than all other states except New Jersey and New York.

The blatant racism and xenophobia impacting our Asian and Asian-American siblings during this time also elevate the issues of psychological trauma and fear as race-based hate crimes towards these communities, who are being blamed for this epidemic, skyrocket. 

This isn’t right. This isn’t the kingdom of God. 

This pandemic is highlighting the canyon, not gap, that has caused communities of color to be left behind in the advancement of health. To advance in better health, we must lift from the bottom to help the people who have been harmed by lax, racist or ignorant public health legislation.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the Infectious Disease department of the National Institutes of Health, said this pandemic is shining a bright light in the dark corners -- dark corners of our world which we have abandoned and banished whole communities to die a slow and painful death. 

COVID-19 will pass, but the work for justice in health and opportunity is just starting. This truly could be a tipping point. The gospel is clear about social equity and access to care. It seems like the time has come for churches to come face-to-face with the realities of caring for the poor and sick.

For much too long, we Christians have walked the corners of this earth simply carrying a Bible in our hands and assuming that this was sufficient to fulfill our duties to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Perhaps now we can approach the needs of this world with a Bible in one hand while rotating research, current news, and world testimonies in the other. 

During this time of rebuilding and regaining health and strength to stand again after being brought to our knees by this virus, I urge our churches to use the age-old question as a guiding compass for how to move forward: What would Jesus do? 

What would Jesus do when we hear that local governments are proposing dangerous legislation to prematurely open parts of America? What would Jesus do when we hear that COVID-19 is most impacting communities of color due to the environmental pollution they have been forced to live in due to racist policies.

What would Jesus do when our local Asian-American businesses are looted, tagged, or destroyed with harmful xenophobic comments? 

The kingdom of heaven is waiting to be rebuilt atop the rubble caused by this pandemic. I think Jesus is waiting to give a shovel to anyone interested in being part of the rebuilding of our communities as we move forward. This pandemic shall pass, but the opportunity to rebuild and make right will not pass with it. 

Click here to download the Color of Coronavirus Toolkit for church leaders.

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