Racism, COVID-19, and the Fight for Economic Justice

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2142 ... July 9, 2020

Racism, COVID-19, and the Fight for Economic Justice

Marty Hart-Landsberg

While the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests sweeping the United States were triggered by recent police murders of unarmed African Americans, they are also helping to encourage popular recognition that racism has a long history of punishing consequences for black people that extend beyond policing. Among these are the enormous disparities between black and white well-being and security. This post seeks to draw attention to some of these disparities by highlighting black-white trends in unemployment, wages, income, wealth, and security.

A common refrain during this pandemic is "We are all in this together." Although this is true in the sense that almost all of us find our lives transformed for the worst because of COVID-19, it is also not true in some very important ways. For example, African Americans are disproportionally dying from the virus. They account for 22.4 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths despite making up only 12.5 per cent of the population.

One reason is that African Americans also disproportionally... suffer from serious pre-existing health conditions, a lack of health insurance, and inadequate housing, all of which increase their vulnerability to the virus. Another reason is that black workers are far more likely than white workers to work in "front-line" jobs, especially low-wage ones, forcing them to risk their health and that of their families. While black workers comprise 11.9 per cent of the labor force, they make up 17 per cent of all front-line workers. They represent an even higher percentage in some key front-line industries: 26 per cent of public transit workers; 19.3 per cent of childcare and social service workers; and 18.2 per cent of trucking, warehouse, and postal service workers.

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