Minorities, Race, Ethnicity and COVID-19



The pandemic has brought to light some of the profound racial social differences that exist in many communities. Because of gaps in access to health care, housing styles, degrees of economic precarity, and job types, COVID-19 has had a greater impact on some communities than others. 

The consequences and ramifications of systemic racial disparity for policy responses to the pandemic are the subject of this section. COVID-19 initiatives have had different economic consequences on different groups of the population. Although many people have faced greater financial instability, racial and ethnic minority groups will continue to be disproportionately affected by current unemployment rates and the resulting "global fallout." 


Financial safety-net services in countries like the United States would be particularly important in reducing racial disparities. 


Measures introduced in the interests of public health have resulted in a significant economic crisis, which has disproportionately impacted black people, who have higher unemployment rates than the general population. Many industries with a high percentage of black employees have been designated as "key," leaving those that are already employed more susceptible to infection. Policies that do not take into account the pandemic's disproportionate impacts on minorities and vulnerable communities are imposing further unjustified pressures on such groups. 

In the United States, measures to mitigate these burdens may include recognizing and targeting sectors with higher proportions of workers from precarious workforces (for example, nonprofit and public-sector jobs, which have higher proportions of minority employees), and modifying policy to provide targeted assistance and reduce burdens. 


Indigenous peoples are increasingly vulnerable to COVID-19 laws, and they face a particularly dire situation across the world. 


In certain South American countries, for example, measures aimed at easing the pandemic's economic impact on the general population will not be sufficient to offer relief to those in low-skilled and precarious employment. Any indigenous peoples in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru have been ignored and are in desperate straits as a result of policies. Even as economic assistance is delivered to some of the most needy populations, inadequate delivery methods such as cash transfers at remote regional banks have resulted in long queues and increased viral dissemination threats in the Peruvian Amazon.

Governments should fix these flaws in their programs if they wish to avoid engagement pressures that might jeopardize their public legitimacy. COVID-19 and race have both had strong political ramifications. 

In the United States, public health policies posed additional barriers to voter registration in the November presidential election, which are expected to lead to racial disenfranchisement patterns in the future. Access to polling places for in-person elections, long wait times that may discourage turnout for a variety of causes, and biases in mail-in ballot rejection rates may both lead to the continuing and unequal marginalization of voters based on race and ethnicity. 


Voting is often made simpler by English language skills, experience with voting processes, flexible work hours, and efficient transportation, enabling certain voters to exercise their political rights more effectively. 


A Human Rights Watch study on Abd'ullah, a Philadelphia elector, during the June primaries demonstrates the emergence of new barriers to voting during the pandemic, especially in minority communities. 

When he arrived at his usual polling place, it was locked. There was no sign of an alternative platform, and he was forced to travel around searching for one due to technological problems with the elections website. He soon reached a school and sat about an hour in line to cast a provisional vote. ‘Someone else may have been discouraged,' he reflected. I was completely disillusioned and on the verge of giving up. However, since I had a car, I was able to be more mobile. It would not have been possible if I had taken public transit. I must have surrendered.' 

He claims that since certain members of ethnic communities are mostly socially vulnerable, they will not often be able to get through the limits enforced during the pandemic to exercise their human rights and liberties. 


If policymakers wish to enact publicly justifiable policies, they should be mindful of the unjust pressures that such interventions place on these people. COVID-19 has also made it more difficult for certain people to exercise their right to free expression. 


Citizens' freedom to completely exercise the right can be limited by public health policies such as stringent lockdowns, stay-at-home directives, and bans on public meetings. When it came to organizing marches in reaction to many cases of deadly police brutality, the interventions became particularly difficult for blacks in the United States. Some questioned whether there was a trade-off between protesting bigotry and public health threats. 

The challenge of keeping physical distance in big crowds or adhering to mandatory mask laws, yelling and chanting, and some of the more violent police reactions, such as pepper spray, which causes gasping and coughing, will all increase the risk of catching the infection. 

However, for all those dedicated to mobilizing for transparency in the face of racial inequality, abstaining from demonstrations around such a critical topic will be a considerable burden, particularly for representatives of disadvantaged communities that are most affected. 

Over, health workers signed an open letter claiming the anti-racism marches were potentially beneficial to public health. The letter argued that "[w]hite dominance is a deadly public health problem that predates and leads to COVID-19," and that "[p]rotests against institutional injustice, which fosters the unjust pressure of COVID-19 on Black populations while still perpetuating police brutality, must be sponsored." 


Many social differences linked to race have been exposed as a result of the pandemic. Protests against police brutality against African-Americans became a platform for linking individual racial acts to systemic injustice in other areas, such as healthcare.


 At the start of the pandemic, blacks had dramatically higher infection and death rates, particularly among those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Many have come to see being black in the United States as its own kind of health danger as a result of these structural factors. ‘[t]hey were born in rural neighborhoods,' said one black activist in Washington, DC, of people he met who died as a result of COVID-19. 

I was unable to get adequate care. Since they lived in such close quarters, it was difficult to maintain social distance. And they were nevertheless compelled to go to work and put themselves in danger'.


Finally, evidence indicates that massive Black Lives Matter demonstrations could not have had an effect on overall virus transmission rates. 


Any laws governing anti-racial profiling and anti-police brutality marches should take into account the possible threats and implications of public health. However, lawmakers must consider the impact that restrictions on marches would have on the willingness of ethnic minorities to address social inequality.


You may also want to read more analysis about the COVID-19 Pandemic here.



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