New data released in the past week on the COVID-19 crisis has exposed what many of us working for racial equity and justice had felt in the pit of our stomachs for weeks: that people whose household income is low and people of color, specifically African Americans, would suffer disproportionally and in great numbers. In Chicago, Black people make up a staggering 70 percent of those dying from COVID-19, yet represent less than 30 percent of the city’s population.
Along with those statistics, it is important to understand why this is happening: there is no vaccine that will insulate one from the effects of structural racism.
Like a virus, the impacts of structural racism have permeated parts of our city for generations, where vast disparities in health, economic mobility, education access, and housing set the stage long ago for the devastation we’re seeing now.
In fact, by laying over the latest map provided by the city on COVID-19 infection rates by zip code to a historical map showing Chicago’s history of redlining, you can begin to visually see the linkage of past discriminatory practices and the compounded effects of what we’re seeing today.
Watch the moving visual to see inequities in plain sight.
This, of course, is true not just in Chicago, but in hundreds of communities across the country. As we worry about the near-term implications of COVID-19 and meeting people’s basic needs, we must also look to the long-term. We must plan for recovery. Not just recovery in the aftermath of this virus, but a holistic recovery. We must plan a recovery that affirms a transformative shift for our fellow humans inside those red lines on the map above.
Seemingly overnight, the world has fundamentally changed, giving us the opportunity to throw out the playbook for “how it’s always been done” and completely shift our way of thinking and doing. While disruption is revealing deeper problems, it has also created opportunities.
The point is this – we have a chance to call out and take on the red lines – a chance to truly build an equitable playing field.
The map shows in full color where our systems have fallen short over time.
Systems are made up of people.
People have choices.
People also create opportunity with those choices.
Let’s not squander our opportunity.
In solidarity and strength,
Founder & CEO, Chicago Beyond
P.S. Chicago Beyond launched Going Beyond to support those on the front lines, not merely in times of crisis, but as a matter of course. It’s also reflective of six core equity principles that anchor our COVID-19 approach, which we hope can also serve as a tool for others forming their approach right now. Click here to learn more.