When it comes to all things COVID-19 related, Black people listen to one person: Dr. Anthony Fauci.
It might help that he’s the leading immunologist in the United States and he’s been in this position since the Black plague devastated then-President Abraham Lincoln’s administration. Also it helps that during one of the most uncertain times in American history, when a mediocre white man’s only qualification for hitting home runs was that he was born on home plate, Dr. Fauci was the calm wind in a sea of orange face paint.
So it goes without saying that when Dr. Fauci notes that the “the undeniable effects of racism” have led to unacceptable health disparities that hurt people of color during the pandemic, I turn to the audience and raise my hands to a chorus of “Amens!”
“COVID-19 has shone a bright light on our own society’s failings,” Fauci said during a graduation ceremony for Emory University, Sunday, the Associated Press reports.
Fauci told the graduates of the Atlanta university, via webcast, “that many members of minority groups work in essential jobs where they might be exposed to the coronavirus. He also said they are more likely to become infected if exposed because of medical conditions such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes or obesity,” AP reports.
“Now, very few of these comorbidities have racial determinants,” Fauci said. “Almost all relate to the social determinants of health dating back to disadvantageous conditions that some people of color find themselves in from birth regarding the availability of an adequate diet, access to health care and the undeniable effects of racism in our society.”
Fauci was awarded the Emory University president’s medal Sunday. He now joins fellow recipients including “former President Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama and the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon,” AP reports.
Fauci basically noted that beating the coronavirus will be easier than undoing the real plague that has been ravaging communities of color for centuries: racism and the division it causes. But he encouraged the graduates to be a part of the solution and to never forget that the infectious disease has disproportionately hospitalized and killed people of color.
“Societal divisiveness is counterproductive in a pandemic,” Fauci said. “We must not be at odds with each other since the virus is the enemy, not each other.”
“Not since the influenza pandemic of 1918 has humanity faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,” he said. “Each of you deserves enormous respect for your extraordinary adaptability, resilience and dedication to learning, completing your studies and graduating despite immense difficulties and uncertainties.”