Grieving families, social distancing, economic disruption: In many respects, coronavirus has changed the world. But it also has exposed the startlingly consistent toll that catastrophe exacts on communities of color. We cannot disentangle the reality that this pandemic is also taking place amidst a national uprising seeking redress from the systemic violence of our criminal justice system on Black bodies.
In responding to COVID-19, local leaders must account for the systemic and institutional racism that make Black people, people of color and indigenous people particularly vulnerable to both the virus itself, complications from the disease and the societal and economic insecurity created by the pandemic. Black people, people of color and indigenous people face underlying inequities in health, income, wealth, access to government resources and participation, incarceration, education, and nearly every additional feature of society. If local governments do not engage communities of color to amplify their voices and needs during this crisis and shape an equity-driven response, their actions are likely to perpetuate and exacerbate these existing inequities.
This discussion will focus on how COVID-19 and the governmental response is disparately impacting communities of color from the national to local scale, including the direct and indirect harms being done to communities of color by the pandemic and the government’s response, how frames of belonging can help inform public policy decisions and approaches to serve all of our communities and address racial disparities, what legal tools are available to address these disparities and where there are gaps, and what lawmakers should consider as they attempt to craft a response to this crisis.