What started off as a question, the answer to which was a resounding no, has now metamorphised into fact. The question — does COVID-19 discriminate against blacks? — was absurd on its face. Even onetime A-lister Madonna demonstrated awareness that infectious diseases are the “great equalizer,” striking great and small without prejudice or passion.
But not everyone sees it that way. One who does not is Eddie Glaude, chairman of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. Glaude was a guest on MSNBC last week, where he declared that the disproportionate percentage of blacks struck down by the virus is a function of the “inequality and deep structural racism that has defined American society for generations.”
It is true that blacks are dying of COVID-19 in numbers disproportionate to other populations. But — and this is key — the difference is not in infection rates but in rates of survival once disease is contracted. What accounts for the high mortality rate among blacks is a pattern of lifestyle choices, including diet and lack of exercise, that contribute to medical conditions such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes. These underlying conditions are comorbidities for those who contract COVID-19. (RELATED: Thank God for experts: Black leaders advise people of color not to wear face masks)
I realize this explanation isn’t as satisfying to Glaude and his ilk as “deep structural racism,” but it happens to be the truth.