Pick your poison. What’s worse about U.S. society: our racial prejudice, or the disparity between rich and poor when it comes to fundamental human rights like the right to proper nutrition and health care? Obviously these are not separate but all mixed together.
Statistics show that the indiscriminate killer coronavirus is discriminating against African Americans, who are dying from it in amounts exceeding their demographic numbers. The reason is sadly obvious: COVID is particularly deadly against the physically vulnerable — those afflicted with a variety of chronic conditions: diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, asthma, even obesity, to name a few.
And people of color are predisposed to poor health because so many of them are poor and live in poor areas where they don’t have ready access to proper medical facilities or, for that matter, to proper nutrition. It’s more profitable for the owners of hospitals and supermarkets to locate in wealthier neighborhoods. And just about anyone besides the most ardent white supremacist is well aware of the reality that in the US of A, people of color are denied the equal opportunity that the colorless take for granted.
Between 20% and 25% of African Americans and Hispanic Americans live in poverty. For Native Americans it’s even worse. Even though the coronavirus is an equal opportunity death machine, it attacks the weakest populations first. We are still mired as a nation in racial bias.
We can also see evidence of America’s malaise in the decay of the public health system. Once the envy of the planet, with victories against so many scourges, from smoking to polio, now its fumbling response to the coronavirus has made it a national embarrassment.
By definition, public health is supposed to be egalitarian. But in this country, with its concentration of wealth, nothing is:
“While presumably we are all created equal, the conditions in which we are born, live and work within are not.”
Those are the words of Karen McDonnell, associate professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. She goes on to say that her life’s work has another disadvantage:
“Public health is not glamorous ... Our success is when a crisis you didn’t even know was brewing was averted.”


The problem is that to the politicians who determine our budgets, public health is fair game when they want cutbacks to finance their other pet priorities. Over the decades, erosion has left public health at every level — federal, state and local — understaffed and underfinanced. In addition, there is sometimes a cavalier attitude when it comes to appointing those in charge. We’ve seen that with the coronavirus
crisis, made far worse by the blunders of those in leadership roles until it was too late.
News reports are documenting the ignored warnings and incompetence of the Trump administration that lasts to this day. With the federal coordination vacuum, it’s every state governor for him- or herself. But beforehand, no one was really paying attention — not the White House, not the members of Congress or state legislators and certainly not journalists.
In the words of the late Bruce Morton, who was a news legend and friend of mine, “We can only over-cover one story at a time.” When we were consumed by impeachment, no one had time for another catastrophe.
Even as we are under crushing danger, POTUS, with his pretend briefings, and the Democrats too, are cynically looking for political advantage. Once again, each side is talking about a bipartisan approach to addressing America’s deteriorating infrastructure, meaning our roads and bridges, to create jobs. But how about tackling our societal infrastructure, the racial and economic discrimination? The coronavirus has forced us to reckon still again that the nation has unequal health care.
To be sure, the United States is not the only country that’s been devastated, but we claim to be exceptional. We have a long way to go to even make it to adequate.

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 14, 2020 8:34 AM.

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