Pandemic is too small a word for what we’re engaged in at this moment. Our nation is going through a very dark period that will precipitate major changes in the way we learn, work and live. And so we must all brace for impact. I am reminded of Thomas Paine who said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
This virus that we’re fighting now knows no boundaries. It is indiscriminate in who it touches or where it travels. But here’s the thing — we know that disasters magnify what already is. The things that are beautiful, righteous and lovely, and the people that run to the fire are what brings us great joy. However, disasters like this also magnify the inequities we have lived with for far too long.
Early data already reveals familiar patterns of racial and economic bias, and recent headlines seem a little like déjà vu.
“In the American South, a Perfect Storm Is Gathering”
“Early Data Shows African Americans Have Contracted and Died of Coronavirus at an Alarming Rate”
“The Coronavirus’s Unique Threat to the South”
As we outlined extensively in our Divided by Design report, outcomes are disparate by design, with African Americans bearing the disproportionate impact. Centuries of policy are coming home to roost. Decades of purposefully eroding the social safety net are now leading to decisions between life and death at an unimaginable scale.
We fear that a lack of equity in resource distribution for testing and quality healthcare will result in the virus causing great harm in some communities and less in others. It’s been difficult to analyze how communities of color are faring because the CDC isn’t reporting any data on race. That must change nationwide.
Early data from states is a cause for concern.
Just yesterday, my home state of Louisiana released data to show that over 70 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths are of African Americans. This is just another wake-up call for the country.
Once we’re able to analyze why and how we got to this point, we must change.
After Hurricane Katrina, the people of New Orleans did a remarkable thing. We decided to rebuild not just how it was before, recognizing many of our faults. We decided to build back better than before, remaking systems and our physical infrastructure in ways not thought possible on August 28, 2005.
Out of this crisis, my hope is that we — as a nation — decide that we’re going to redesign the systems that have led us to such disparate impact. Solutions must address the underlying inequities in our society. We can and must do better.
If our heroes today are our frontline healthcare workers, grocery store cashiers, domestic workers and municipal employees (all of whom are overwhelmingly people of color), then certainly we can provide them with equal justice and opportunity.
If we can muster trillions of dollars for tax cuts and corporate bailouts, certainly we can provide resources for greater economic security for all Americans even when there is not a crisis.
This is why the work and mission of E Pluribus Unum could never be more relevant.
Policy prescriptions that seemed “too big” and “revolutionary” a few weeks ago seem more immediately necessary than ever — from nationwide vote-by-mail to universal paid leave to direct cash payments like universal basic income. We must find bold and effective solutions to tackle the inequities in our country’s recovery. We also know the lasting economic fallout will disproportionately impact low-income people in both cities and rural communities, and so we will be working to ensure equity is considered as our municipal partners begin to address their own budget crises.
Of course, the heart of our work at E Pluribus Unum is to prove our motto that we are better together as one. Times of crisis can bring us together, as we’ve seen play out in community after community across the South and the country. And I am confident we will get through this time by pulling together.
Please stay connected with us by visiting our social media channels or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. My thoughts and prayers remain with everyone during this unprecedented time.
Stay Safe. Stay Hopeful. Stand Together.
Founder and President