“I can’t breathe!” These were the words of George Floyd as Derek Chauvin, a white police officer kneeled down on his neck for at least eight minutes, leading to his tragic death and culminating in three nights of fiery protest, before the officer was finally arrested and charged for third degree murder and manslaughter.
As African Americans continue to take to the streets of Minneapolis to protest the unprovoked killing, armoured only with face-masks as protection against a deadly virus that has been killing their own at a rate 2.4 times higher than their white counterparts, the realities of the pandemic have cast a symbolic spotlight on the racist cracks in America’s foundation.
According to the most recent COVID-19 statistics from Minneapolis, 34 percent of those infected have been black and 24 percent have been white— despite accounting for 18 percent and 64 percent of the city’s population respectively.
Inequalities in police violence are just as disturbing; more than 60 percent of people shot by police in Minneapolis during the decade between 2009 and 2019 were black, while police officers in Minneapolis have been 13 times more likely to kill blacks, according to data scientist Samuel Sinyangwe.
More than 1000 miles away, in New York, police data from early May reveals that over 90 percent of those arrested and 82 percent of those who received summonses for pandemic-related offences were either black or Hispanic. New York police have also been accused of disproportionately providing masks to whites.
Men like George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and tens of thousands of anonymous African Americans who account for 23 per cent of all COVID-19-related deaths, despite representing only 13 percent of the US population, have not been given the dignity to properly say goodbye to their friends and families.
COVID-19 has not only exposed the impact of institutionalised racism, but it has also unearthed deeply rooted hostilities that might have previously lurked in likeminded underground circles or been shamefully hidden away in the psychological recesses of ‘educated’ minds or behind bejewelled masks of liberal guilt.
The predisposing causes of disproportionate COVID-19-related deaths— elevated rates of non-communicable diseases including diabetes and hypertension, inadequate healthcare in black areas, the marketing and sale of unhealthy foods to black communities and the fact that minorities are disproportionately employed on the frontlines— are inextricably linked to the deaths of African American men at the hands of white police officers.
Many have projected that the fallout of COVID-19 will result in an increase in race related hostilities and violence— and these predictions are not without merit.
Studies have confirmed that infectious disease is correlated with both explicit and implicit prejudice. According to the results of research conducted on a sample 75,000 Americans by psychologist Brian O’Shea and reported via NPR in late April, there is a relationship between the prevalence of infectious disease and racial bias.
“I think that anxiety is rising to the surface and people are projecting that anxiety on marginalised communities much more substantively than they were before,” said Zakir Khan of the Oregon Attorney General’s Hate Crimes Task Force, in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB).
In April, FBI Director Christopher Wray indicated that there is a concern “about the potential for hate crimes by individuals and groups targeting minority populations in the United States who they believe are responsible for the spread of the virus.”
The New York City Commission on Human Rights has confirmed 133 recorded incidents targeting Asian victims since the start of the outbreak compared to 11 during the same period last year and the Stop AAPI Hate reporting centre documented 1,710 incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, 15 percent of which included physical violence.
On May 11, a New York couple was arrested after they allegedly snatched a Hasidic Jewish man’s face-mask and punched him in the face while making anti-Semitic comments related to COVID-19.
Oregon hate crime reports have surged by 366 percent since the beginning of the pandemic (OPB). During April, 20 per cent of the reported cases were directed at the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and in South East Portland, seven out of ten cases were directed at members of the LGBTQ community and women.
While there is no evidence of racial motivation, COVID also appears to have had an impact on the sale of ammunition.
In March, as Americans began to self quarantine, gun sales reached record levels, with the federal government conducting 3.7 million background checks on gun buyers while online firearm retailer, ammo.com reported a 792 percent increase in revenues between February 23rd and March 21st. The National Shooting Sports Foundation also reported a 41 percent upsurge in gun sales during that period.
As the flames of protest continue to choke the city of Minnesota, and the scourge of inequality continues to disproportionately impact African American health outcomes during COVID-19; as hate crimes against blacks, Asian Americans and other minority groups continue to rock Americans’ sense of safety amidst disturbing increases in the purchase of ammunition, America has cause to reflect.
At the end of the day, none of these issues were created by the pandemic. COVID-19 has just magnified what was already there.
Source: Forbes Business