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COVID-19 vaccination drive reflects racial disparities in the U.S.

By Qin Chuan (People's Daily Online)    17:52, February 08, 2021

A recent report by the Associated Press has indicated that African Americans and Hispanic and Latino Americans in the United States are getting inoculated against COVID-19 at levels below their respective shares of the general population.

In Maryland, black people make up 30 percent of the population and 40 percent of the health care industry yet account for just 16 percent of the people vaccinated so far. In Philadelphia and Chicago, the racial discrimination seen in vaccination roll out is also troubling.

People hold placards during a protest over the death of George Floyd in the city of Mountain View, San Francisco Bay Area, California, the United States, May 31, 2020. (Xinhua/Dong Xudong)

"One of the extraordinary aspects of this pandemic is the racial and ethnic disparities,” top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said. The pandemic once again reflects that structural racism remains deeply rooted in American society, which has brought various negative impacts to the life and job opportunities of American minorities. The New York Times also stated that this inequality is "unbearable."

The problems exposed by the medical industry reflect the current reality most viscerally. Long-term structural racism has prevented American minorities from accessing quality medical services, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this problem. Minorities' right to health, which is already poorly guaranteed, has been challenged in the extreme, causing significant tragedy and loss.

Research results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America showed that estimated excess deaths for Black, Hispanic and Latino populations in the U.S. due to COVID-19 have been three to four times greater than those for Whites.

Under a medium-term scenario, life expectancy among Whites is projected to decline by 0.68 years, while the corresponding declines in Black and Latino life expectancies are projected to be 2.10 and 3.05 years, respectively. These projections imply an increase of nearly 40 percent in the life expectancy gap between Black and White Americans, rising from 3.6 years to over 5 years, as revealed in the proceedings.

The facts lay bare that the perpetuation of long-standing structural racism in the U.S. has led to inequality in many aspects of American life, including as concerns the economy, medical care, the justice system, employment, housing, political participation, and education. According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, in 2020, nearly 75 percent of White households owned their own homes, which compared with 61 percent of Asian households and 46 percent of Black households.

In terms of education, among the demographic of those 25 years and older, 95 percent of White people, 92 percent of Asians, and 90 percent of African Americans had a high school diploma or higher. For Americans of different identities and backgrounds, an uneven distribution of opportunities is one of the main sources of their anxiety and worry in a society where education plays an increasingly important role. This kind of ominous shadow has even become likened to a "mental plague" hanging over American society.

Only rotten trees grow bad apples. Racism has been entrenched throughout the history of the U.S. In American history, black people were enslaved and forced to work under cruel conditions. According to the Center for American Progress, in current U.S. dollars, the value of the labor squeezed from slaves by American slave owners had exceeded $14 trillion. It was not until the 1960s and 1970s when civil rights movements finally emerged in the U.S., a turbulent time which failed to get at the root of the fundamental problem however.

Over the past 40 years, the unemployment rate for African American workers has been roughly twice that of their White counterparts, while the incomes of African American families were 25 percent to 45 percent lower than that of White families. At present, the U.S. still suffers from systematic discrimination against Black people, and racial contradictions have become increasingly acute. On the road to pursuing the "American Dream", minorities have never once stood at the same starting line as White people.

U.S. President Biden made "improving racial equality" a priority for his first term. On the day he took office, he talked about the existence of a "cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making."

Recently, Biden signed a memorandum denouncing the discrimination directed at Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. This move undoubtedly reflected the seriousness of racial tensions that have since flared up during the pandemic. From its founding up until this day, the American society has been afflicted with a grave contradiction between the creed of its founders that "all men are created equal" and the facts of racism, indicating that there is still a long way to go for the country to achieve unity and heal the wounds of ethnic disparities. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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