COVID-19 and the color line

Jason PurnellJason Purnell, associate professor at the Brown School


As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, its toll on African Americans is coming into sharper focus. In almost every setting, African Americans are contracting the virus—and dying from it—at startlingly disproportionate rates. In Milwaukee County, African Americans account for 27 percent of the population and over half of all COVID-19 cases. In Illinois, African Americans account for 15 percent of the population, 33 percent of COVID-19 cases, and 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths. In Georgia, African Americans account for 37 percent of the population and 62 percent of COVID deaths. Starkest of all, in the city of St. Louis, African Americans account for 47 percent of the population, almost three quarters of COVID-19 cases, and it appears almost everyone who has died of the virus has been black.

How do we account for this damage, for what New York Times columnist Charles Blow aptly dubbed the racial time bomb at the heart of the COVID-19 crisis?

Read the full piece in Boston Review.

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