Is the Left suggesting that COVID-19 discriminates against blacks?

Is the Left suggesting that COVID-19 discriminates against blacks?
U.S. Army's 531st Hospital Center field hospital, now deploying to New York in coronavirus response, participated in a deployment exercise in 2018. USA video, YouTube

The race card has already been played during the coronavirus crisis with the Left excoriating Donald Trump several weeks ago for referring to the pandemic as the “Chinese virus.” Now it looks as though charges of racism are about to be leveled again, judging from an article that came out in the Atlantic yesterday. The author, Ibram X. Kendi, is identified as the director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.

The title asks a question: “Why Don’t We Know Who the Coronavirus Victims Are?” The piece opens anecdotally with a lament about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, 90% of the victims of which were black. Eventually the author gets down to cases, writing:

We have little publicly available data about the racial makeup of those Americans who have been tested, those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, those who have been hospitalized, those who have become critically ill, those who have recovered, or those who have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

One agency that has compiled data, he goes on to note, is the Illinois Department of Public Health, which released data that show “a pandemic within the pandemic”:

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African Americans are significantly overrepresented in infection rates in Illinois, while whites and Latinos are significantly underrepresented. African Americans make up 14.6 percent of the state population, but 28 percent of confirmed cases of the coronavirus. White people comprise 76.9 percent of the Illinois population, and 39 percent of the confirmed cases. Latinos comprise 17.4 percent of the state population, and 7 percent of the cases. In Illinois, Asian Americans were the only racial group without a significant disparity between their state population, at 5.9 percent, and confirmed cases, at 4 percent. … What we are seeing in Illinois could be happening nationwide — we just don’t know.

Suppose it is happening nationwide. What can we — what can anyone — deduce from that? That that the virus can infect anyone regardless of race, sex, age, or social standing is so obvious that even Madonna, in a recent bathtub musing, observed that the virus is “the great equalizer.” The tweet containing the video, which is no longer available, added “No-discrimination-Covid-19!!”

Does the author believe that the coronavirus is a conspiracy against blacks? He attempts to make his complaint seem rational by quoting a letter that Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that states:

Any attempt to contain COVID-19 in the United States will have to address its potential spread in low-income communities of color, first and foremost to protect the lives of people in those communities, but also to slow the spread of the virus in the country as a whole.

But how do Warren and Pressley envision the government “protect[ing] the lives of people in those communities” above and beyond what it is currently doing? That is disseminating information on how individuals can minimized the risk of infection, chiefly by social distancing or, preferably, sheltering in place.

In due time, I suspect we will learn which demographic groups were most impacted by the pandemic. But it seems clear to me that those who were will turn out to be citizens who either rejected the advice to self-isolate or were ignorant of it altogether.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer and regular contributor to "Liberty Unyielding."