PRINT: Racial Injustice Black Lives Strike (copy)

Protesters participating in a Black Lives Matter rally. File photo.

Racism. View it as tainted water, the measles, or the flu. It is a public health crisis if one believes the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which relates "racism" to the higher rate of the coronavirus among minorities.

By blaming racism as a cause for the spread of COVID-19, the state distracts us from a more legitimate culprit it can and should address.

Poverty.

To emasculate racism, help its targets achieve the power of economic success.

Racism is an evil, irrational, and idiotic character flaw among individuals who mistreat others on a basis of skin color or other immutable and irrelevant traits that are mostly physical. Some humans are racist; most are not. By making racism a “public health crisis,” the state inadvertently absolves racists by comparing their evil to something resembling a ubiquitous environmental problem.

No one at any time or place should deny the scourge of racism. It always has been and will be an infection of human psychology around the globe. We cannot end it; we can only contend with it.

Though public health officials point to higher coronavirus infection rates among Blacks and Hispanics, no reasonable person suggests the virus is racist.

The pandemic’s biggest American target is the Hispanic demographic. Start with the understanding Hispanic is not a race. More than half of Hispanics in the United States are white. Being Hispanic or Latino means one’s genetic and/or cultural lineage originates in Spain, Latin America, or another predominantly Spanish-speaking region. We can safely assume the virus does not care about that.

We can likewise conclude the virus neither sees nor processes the pigmentation of a Black person.

Despite those conclusions, which few would dispute, Latinos comprise 36% of all coronavirus cases in Colorado. That’s weird because Latinos account for only 22% of the state's population. Strange how the disease seems to favor people with ties to Spanish speaking cultures. Similarly, Blacks account for 5% of Colorado’s COVID-19 cases and only 4% of the state’s population.

Unable to process ethnicity or race, the virus merely survives better among people living and working among each other in close quarters.

A significant proportion of Latinos are relatively new to this country as recent immigrants or the offspring of immigrants. At a higher rate than white or Black people, therefore, Latinos work in service industries, factories, and meat-packing plants. This was the circumstance of the Irish, Italians, and other populations that immigrated in waves over past generations.

Working-class people are in jobs that seldom allow them to shelter at home while working at a computer. In retail and foodservice businesses they interact with hundreds of consumers each day. They are more likely to share homes with multiple families or roommates as a means of affording the mortgage or rent. They generally have less access to cleaners and personal protection equipment. An assortment of economic factors makes minorities statistically more susceptible to contagion.

Not all low-income, unemployed, or otherwise poor people are ethnic or racial minorities. Low-income and poor white people face all of the elevated risks of illness endured by low-income Latinos, Blacks, or other minorities. Similarly, wealthy professional and established Blacks and Latinos likely have no higher risk of contracting a virus than do their high-income white peers.

U.S. Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod said it best when famously telling an audience how she discovered poverty treats white and Black farmers with equal cruelty.

"It made me see it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t," Sherrod said. "They could be Black, they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize that I needed to work to help poor people."

For a variety of reasons — including racism — minorities comprise a disproportionately high number of low-income and poor people in Colorado and the rest of the country. That almost certainly explains why their communities represent a disproportionately high rate of those infected with the COVID-19.

The state health department cannot eliminate racists or racism or any other sickening ideologies, no matter how much they virtue-signal against them. The agency can, and should, wage war against cycles of poverty. That means helping people move up the socioeconomic ladder with more job training and educational opportunities, career counseling, personal financial advice and assistance, and anything else that helps improve the economic plights of those who can least afford to protect themselves from an invisible enemy.

Health, life expectancy, and quality of life improve as incomes rise — a causal nexus the racist pigs cannot stomach. State agencies, religious organizations, communities, families, and individuals should help targets of racism fight back with the power that comes from economic success.

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