Resilient Truths: A Letter to the Black Community About COVID-19

By: Emma E. Houston, Multicultural Advisory Committee – State of Utah COVID-19 Response

Let’s keep it simple as I compare COVID-19 to a cousin who keeps showing up at the family gatherings uninvited. We may all have a family member who regardless of our intent to keep them away from family gatherings, always manages to find out where they are being held and shows up.  COVID-19 has shown up uninvited in the Black community and has caused chaos.  The type of chaos that has infected family members, caused the death of family members and left family members with lingering side effects that have yet to be determined.  COVID-19 has taken up residence in the Black community with no signs of leaving any time soon.  

Of course we can all speculate on why our Black community may be more impacted than other communities but health authorities have narrowed it down to this sobering factor; it’s likely because we are working in jobs where we have a greater risk of coming in contact with the virus day in and day out. We are essential workers. 

“I find it ironic that the people we depend on as essential workers to wipe down our counters and keep things clean are the most vulnerable among us,” said Tiana N. Rogers, corresponding author of the study and program manager in the David Eccles School of Business, in a statement.

Percentage of COVID‐19 Deaths and Percentage of Population by Race/Ethnicity in Utah (As of November 10, 2020)

American Indian/Alaska NativeAsianBlack/African AmericanHispanic or LatinoNative Hawaiian/Pacific IslanderWhite alone, not Hispanic or Latino
6.1% (41) | 2.3%4.3% (29) | 3.8%1.3% (9) | 2.1%19.3% (130) | 14.2%4.6% (31) | 1.6%58.3% (392) | 78%
Data Source: https://coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts/

When we look at the numbers on the chart, it indicates that the Black population percentage is so small that it appears to be insignificant, yet the COVID-19 deaths are attributed to 1.3 percent in the Black community.  Think about that in terms of lack of access to quality health care, in terms of earning a livable wage, in terms of being able to self-isolate if necessary.  The Black community has been tossed into an unwelcome and uninvited situation. Impacted by an unwelcome relative who has set up house, claimed space and has been turned loose to wreak havoc and confusion.  

We all know in our heart of hearts that this is a serious matter, one to not be taken lightly. My reference to a cousin is simply made to drive home the fact that when we encounter situations that are difficult to navigate, we go to the source.  In the Black family it’s our matriarch, in the Black community, it’s our trusted leaders, and in navigating this COVID situation, it’s our health experts. The experts who are trained to analyze the trends, the experts who interpret the data, the experts who direct us to Mask Up. 

We have been given the tools to combat this uninvited virus. We have been given simple to follow steps; wear a mask, wash our hands, keep our distance, do not attend large gatherings.  We know what we must do to curb the spread of this deadly disease.  The request that appears to be the challenge is will we.  Think about it, do you want to be that cousin who showed up and created chaos for family members.  When we know better, we do better. Let’s all do better to stop the spread and impact of COVID-19.