New Coronavirus Death Milestone: How America’s History Warned Us This Would Happen
The U.S. has always responded to crises in a way that allows Black and Brown people to endure prolonged suffering.
The United States is approaching the grim milestone of 500,000 coronavirus-related deaths.
It’s a staggering statistic that feels both shocking and entirely familiar. Having been in quarantine since early March of 2020, I have watched this virus radically change my personal life as well as the state of the world as I knew it for nearly a year.
My mind wants to associate this passage of time with progression. I want to believe that the longer this goes on, the closer things are to getting better, to some semblance of normalcy.
For most of the world, this is true.
Countries struggled to contain the virus in the beginning when less was known about how to stop the spread. Then, they quarantined, wore masks, and socially distanced for months until things started to get better. Many countries have reached herd immunity as their combined efforts paid off, with countries such as New Zealand going as far as to declare themselves COVID-19 free.
But we are America.
We are the country that turned mask-wearing into a political debate divided along arbitrary party lines.
Social distancing became a “violation of freedom” rather than a scientific tool for reducing the spread of a deadly virus.
I should have known my country’s response to the pandemic would be wildly insufficient and further reveal the biases embedded within our systems of government. I have watched this country respond to crises before.
I remember watching a documentary in high school on the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the category five hurricane that ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast. While the natural disaster itself took hundreds of lives, it was the lack of government aid that propelled the death toll to the thousands. 1833 lives were lost.
In a study that noted the demographics of those who were unable to evacuate the most hard-hit areas, the majority were low-income Black families who were left behind. That’s who the government decided not to save, to let drown, starve and die of dehydration long after the hurricane hit.
That’s how the United States responds to crises, by leaving their most vulnerable populations to suffer.
Look at what was going on in Texas just last week. People were freezing, starving, boiling snow because there was no access to clean water, burning to death in their homes while attempting to stay warm, and suffering through unprecedented climate-borne disasters while their state senator vacationed in Cancun.
This country has a longstanding history of ignoring crises that disproportionately affect low-income communities and people of color. Black and Brown people are infected with coronavirus at higher rates while receiving the vaccine at lower ones.
The U.S. is about to reach a horrifying coronavirus death milestone, and I cannot say I’m surprised.