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How the Coronavirus has Exacerbated Disparities for Historically Marginalized Communities

Thursday, May 28, 2020   (0 Comments)

As our country begins to reopen, the Women in Government Relations' Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee takes stock of the toll COVID-19 has taken thus far, particularly within historically marginalized communities. This month, the DEI Committee had the pleasure of hearing from The Data Center’s Chief Demographer: Allison Plyer, MBA, ScD.


Despite early descriptions of COVID-19 being the “great equalizer” in that no one is immune to the virus, the virus has quickly demonstrated in the span of just a few months that it is disproportionately affecting people of color. African Americans, for example, make up an overwhelming majority of COVID-19 cases and deaths throughout the country despite representing a smaller percentage of the population. As of last month:


  • In Michigan – African Americans made up 33% of COVID-19 cases and 40% of COVID-19 deaths, but are only 14% of the state’s population.
  • In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin – African Americans made up almost 50% of COVID-19 cases and 81% of COVID-19 deaths, but are only 26% of the county’s population.
  •  In Illinois – African Americans made up 42% of COVID-19 deaths, but are only 14.6% of the state’s population. In Chicago, African Americans made up more than 50% of COVID-19 cases and 68% of COVID-19 deaths, but are only 30% of the city’s population.
  • In Louisiana, African Americans made up 57% of COVID-19 deaths, but are only 33% of the state’s population.


Data from other states, cities, and counties reveal similar findings. Using a wealth of data, Dr. Plyer led DEI Committee members through a discussion on how both historic and modern-day discrimination in education, healthcare, housing, criminal justice, and economic opportunity contributes to these statistics. With an already uneven playing field, it is not surprising that when things go south, African Americans and other people of color are the ones who are heavily impacted.


As we begin to reopen in some areas of the country and try to get back to normalcy, Dr. Plyer concluded:


“Addressing racism, much of it unconscious, in our healthcare, employment, housing, banking, education, and criminal justice systems will be critical to effectively addressing our health and economic challenges going forward.”


If you are interested in being part of these conversations,  register for WGR’s upcoming professional development opportunity: the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Virtual Summit! The Summit will take place across three days on July 14, July 21, and July 28 from 9:30 am – 11:30 am. Each day will focus on a specific DEI theme (Education, Ownership, Action) and will provide an opportunity for WGR members to become further educated and empowered to embrace and become DEI advocates. This Summit will include engaging keynote speakers, interactive panels, and opportunities for attendees to reflect on their own DEI stories and how these stories can become the catalysts for helping to further encompass DEI into their own professional and personal lives. Register here


This month’s DEI Blog is authored by Angela Lee, DEI Committee member


The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee writes a monthly blog covering topics from WGR’s monthly DEI Committee meetings. Meetings are open to all WGR members, view upcoming topics and meetings here. To learn more about WGR’s commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion click here.



Additional Resources

1. Because Institutional Racism Exacerbates our Health and Economic Challenges


2. Data Center: Too many questions unanswered about COVID-19 death rates


3. Every aspect of the coronavirus pandemic exposes America’s devastating inequalities


4. Ring the Alarm: COVID-19 Presents Grave Danger to Communities of Color


5. The COVID-19 Crisis is a Racial Justice Issue & our Response must Prioritize the Power of Black, Indigenous, Latinx & Other People of Color