Robin Boylorn on Covid-19 and Vulnerable Communities
One in every 500 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19. In Alabama, 1 out of every 390 people have died due to the disease or complications from it. After 19 months of living with the uncertainty and anxiety of a global pandemic, over 674,000 people have died nationwide. What that means in theory is that most people know someone who has died of COVID; what that means in actuality is that whole families and communities have been ravished by the disease. The overwhelming weight of daily death has led to desensitization and normalization of loss. The impact and reality of COVID is equally incomprehensible and invisible, which like most health inequities makes it dangerous.
As the most vulnerable populations to the pandemic shift from the elderly to the young, black, brown and indigenous people, poor people and those with preexisting conditions continue to be disproportionately more at risk of dying due to COVID, which has generational implications. The need for comprehensive health services that promotes health equity and attends to cultural and identity differences is necessary to address the dismal outcomes of the ongoing pandemic.
COVID-19 deaths in marginalized communities are reflected in all age groups and have had detrimental and concentrated impacts on native, tribal and rural communities. In addition to the groups you know, other vulnerable communities are also at risk, but are not included in the more widespread statistics, including LGBTQ folk, whose data is often missing because sexual orientation and gender identity is rarely, if ever, collected.
Additionally, while racial disparities exist in the health care system, so do discriminatory experiences for people who are considered or read as non-normative due to fatphobia, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and classism.
The pandemic has highlighted the value scale of human life. In a context of limited and isolated resources, health care providers are forced to decide whose life is worth saving. If priority is given to those with the highest life expectancy or lowest mortality rate, what does that mean for poor people of color, or those who are disabled? If value is assigned in dollar signs, and if the statistical value of a life is $10 million dollars per life, what of a person who doesn’t make $10 an hour? What of the uninsured? What of the non-English speakers, undocumented immigrants, trans and gender non-binary folk? How do we hold space and account for people who have historically been both marginalized and invisibilized in our society and are now dying in obscurity with their worth absorbed into an unbelievable statistic?
If, as The People’s Oracle stated, “survival is meant to be a shared burden; not an individual obligation,” then it is our shared responsibility to figure out, together, what survival will look like with the worst pandemic of our lifetime claiming the lives of multiple generations at once.
In order to save lives we have to value them.
I’m Robin Boylorn. Until next time, keep it crunk!
Written by Robin Boylorn
Edited by Brittany Young