We must center RACE and RACIAL EQUITY during the COVID-19 crisis

March 27, 2020

A recent article in Bridge Magazine identifies Detroit as having one of the highest per capita coronavirus infection rates in the nation. Just in this past week, news statements have labeled Detroit as one of the coronavirus hot spots, a distinction shared by New York City as well. The article correctly points to the unique vulnerability of Detroiters to CODVID-19 based on high rates of chronic and debilitating illness. We would also add exposure to environmental hazards that produce high rates of asthma and respiratory disease as major risk factors for the virus 

These conditions do not randomly occur and are not solely based on individual health behavior. Rather, these health disparities and health inequities are rooted in long standing structural and systemic racism that produces unhealthy outcomes for African Americans. Therefore, it stands to reason that Detroit, the nation’s largest majority Black city and other majority Black communities across Michigan and the nation will disproportionately bear the brunt of the coronavirus epidemic. And while we know that the virus doesn’t discriminate, many of the current systems that impact the daily lives of Black Detroiters do discriminate and produce uneven and unhealthy life circumstances.      

As leaders in Detroit and Lansing struggle to respond to this unprecedented health and economic upheaval, it is critical that our elected officials and policy makers center race and racial equity in the decision-making process.

Detroiters must demand that mitigation and containment strategies take into account the social and economic realities for majority Black Detroit including how and where we earn a living; how we feed and care for our familieshow we share our housing and living spaces across generations; how cultural and spiritual connections are essential and how our very survival historically is rooted in our togetherness in community.   

In addition to much needed and immediate material relief for individuals and families required at this time, Detroiters must also demand that our local government and elected officials be more responsive to the REAL priorities that help mitigate illness and risk to health, and promote the long term health and well being of Detroiters. We must demand an end to the inhumane policies that increase the vulnerability of Detroiters not just to the coronavirus but the sure to come future upheavals.  

We speak specifically about local policies that result in water shutoffs to thousands, loss of secure housing thru unjust foreclosures and eviction; diversion of public assets into the hands of wealthy one percenters and household poverty rates that are some of the highest in the nation.  

Many agree there will be a new normal on the other side of this epidemic. Detroiters must therefore demand a new normal where these unjust policies are not simply put on temporary pause in this moment of crisis but instead are permanently bannedWe WIN this demand by organizing and advocating for a local government that prioritizes investment in our families and neighborhoods as the pathway to a revitalized, resilient and sustainable Detroit


Bridge Magazine: Coronavirus spreading faster in Detroit than nearly anywhere in United States

DETROIT — The coronavirus pandemic is ravaging the poorest big city in the nation, prompting concerns about whether a municipality still recovering from bankruptcy can provide services to its most vulnerable residents.

Michigan Public Radio: Detroit is a COVID-19 hotspot. What the data do, and don't, tell us

Metro Detroit has become one of the nation’s COVID-19 hotspots. And experts predict the situation will get even more dire in the next several weeks. The city of Detroit is a hotspot within the hotspot. As of Thursday, the city reported 888 COVID-19 cases, with 19 deaths so far.