A little less than four years ago, the president tried to get Black votes with the question, “What do you have to lose.” The coronavirus offers a bleak answer. Trump was notified of the danger of the pandemic in January, but didn’t begin to address the issue until late February. Hospitals ran short on supplies like gowns, masks and tests. Governors had to ask, then plead with the president for ventilators and other supplies. And in the beginning, the president dismissed the seriousness of the virus, claiming it would “go away.” And after weeks of “staying in place” and wearing masks, the daily death toll has not yet stabilized.
Of course, the Black community, along with Native Americans and Latinos, are hardest hit because of differences in spatial location, income, and age. With some of the nonsense Trump has spouted, one might also think that he is deliberately targeting the Black community for damage. What do we have to lose? Our jobs or our lives.
Consider the United States Postal Service (USPS), which has been a staple employer in the African American community. Back in the day, my mom used to talk about “Ph.D.s working at the post office,” because academic employment was scarce and segregated, and the Post Office paid decently. Many a Black family made it to the middle class with postal wages. And now the president is declaring war on the USPS.
Why? 45 has incorrectly said that fees for mailing packages are “too low,” that USPS is subsidizing internet companies (he means Amazon) with low package fees. But studies have shown that the prices paid for mailing packages more than cover their actual costs. Twenty-one percent of the USPS” roughly 625,000 employees are African American, and nearly 17 percent are other people of color. Might this be one of the reasons that 45 keeps lashing out at the USPS? He says that unless the USPS raises its fees for package delivery, he will deny the USPS any COVID-19 aid. I’m not suggesting that his animus toward the USPS in general, and Jeff Bezos and Amazon in particular, is precisely because so many people of color work for the Post Office. Still, I do not think that his attitude toward Black people is unrelated to his ire at the USPS.
What do we have to lose? Some Black women have found their lives at risk because Trump’s touting of hydroxychloroquine as a “game-changing” coronavirus cure. People with lupus also need hydroxychloroquine for their disease, but Trump’s unseemly huckstering a drug that is not likely to cure the coronavirus has created shortages for hydroxychloroquine. Black women get lupus twice as frequently as white women, and we get it younger and with more complications than white women. Because lupus is more likely to hit Black women at an earlier age, Black women also risk complications from pregnancy because of lupus.
Did Trump enthusiastically embrace hydroxychloroquine because Black women are more likely to get the disease, and he wanted to punish us? Does he have investments in hydroxychloroquine–producing companies? You don’t have to believe in conspiracies to recognize the disproportional impact the shortages of hydroxychloroquine have had on Black women.
These impacts of disparate impact are one of the many reasons that race matters and that data on health, income, employment, wealth, and other factors must be collected and reported by race. At the same time, there re too many who resist gathering and reporting data by race, facetiously claiming we are all “one nation.” And the myth of “one nation” holds if data are not collected.
When the threat of the coronavirus has receded, perhaps a year or so from now, we will be able to measure who carried the higher burden of this coronavirus. But we already know that Black folks are dying, losing their jobs, or being exposed to the virus because of the jobs they hold (as an example, Black women are 6 percent of the labor force but 20 percent of medical support staff). We don’t need detailed statistical analysis to conclude that poorer, urban, Black and brown communities are hardest hit.
What do you have to lose? Your job, and maybe even your life. The lack of leadership 45 has exhibited during this pandemic disqualifies him for a second term. And those disproportionately impacted who choose to vote for 45, choose to vote against their own interest.