Coronavirus Pandemic and Black People: An Action Plan to Protect Our Community
The Coronavirus pandemic is impacting every aspect of our society and exposing deep, systemic inequalities that we know will cause Black communities to be harder hit than most. As the news changes minute-to-minute, BET and Color Of Change are teaming up to make sure Black people have the clear and focused information we need to get help, take action and support the hardest hit in our communities.
When America gets a cold, Black people get the flu. And the coronavirus is much more than a cold.
I am so thankful that BET has given me this space to talk about what we can all do to get through this crisis together. I’ve been isolated in my apartment in NYC for more than a week, but I’ve never felt more connected to the power of Black community.
This Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis for Black people, and we have the power to help one another get the care we need. This is also a financial crisis for Black people, and we have the power to help one another get the relief and resources we need. And we have all the tools we need to make sure the people who exacerbated this crisis don’t get to stay around long enough to create another one.
Every week until it’s over, we will be here for you. We will report on what's happening in Black communities, and what’s happening behind the scenes — pointing to real things you can do to make a difference. Together, we will make sure that Black people are both present and powerful enough to force decision-makers to make sure we all get what we need.
Coronavirus This Week in Black Communities:
The recession is here, and if we haven't felt it yet, we're about to. With the first of the month around the corner, we need to focus on our finances as much as our health. Part-time, hourly and contract workers are disproportionately Black and low-income. If you’re one of the 20% of Americans potentially losing their job during this crisis, governors across the country are expanding unemployment assistance for those who need it. If you own a business, The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that they’ll provide up to $2 million in loans for businesses impacted by the coronavirus. As the government’s systems handle the influx of applications, hundreds of coronavirus mutual aid groups have also popped up to offer more immediate help locally.
The organization We Now has created an incredible system for us to be able to signal to our neighbors and community if we need to be checked in on. And emergency fund programs for Black freelancers are also being set up in many cities across the country; from California to New York, our community is stepping up to support one another.
While we take care of immediate, individual crises, we also have to start fighting for big picture solutions that will fix the problem for everyone. At Color of Change, we’re questioning the systems that are causing Black communities to be the hardest hit.
Take action on the issues that matter
The impact of this recession will depend on how our government and corporations respond to it. Big companies and Banks are already getting a bailout. Now it’s time for everyday people to have the protections we need.
Demand emergency money for the people:
The latest proposal by Senators Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, and Sherrod Brown would give a $2,000 immediate cash payment to adults and children, with additional payments of at least $1,000 a person every three months until the economy recovers. Help us show all legislators, Republican and Democrat alike, that this is what our communities need right now.
Start a petition to freeze rent, mortgage, and utility payments in your state during the crisis. People in dozens of states have started petitions demanding rent freezes and eviction moratoriums and in Ohio, Oregon, New York, and Colorado our elected officials are starting to feel the pressure. Elected officials take action when they know their jobs and their reputations are on the line, now we need to make sure every community that needs it will have this option.
Support the National Domestic Workers Alliance’s Coronavirus Care Fund. The goal is to raise $4 million for domestic workers --nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers-- facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Other great work to support this week
It’s hard to prioritize just one way our community needs help. In case you want to get a head start, here are some of the issue’s we’ll tackle as the weeks go on:
- Ensure adequate safety precautions for incarcerated people.
- Demand the expansion of vote-by-mail options so that our people don't risk their health at the polls.
- Call on Governor Cuomo and others to stop resorting to forced prison labor as a quick fix for supply shortages exacerbated by opportunistic hoarding and panic buying.
- Encourage people to take the Census digitally, from home.
I know most of us are feeling the anxieties and uncertainties of social distancing and home quarantine. If this crisis has shown us anything so far, it’s that Black people are resilient, we are innovative and we show up for one another. Through this pandemic, Color Of Change and BET will be here for you, helping our community build the power we need to enact substantive change and get through this moment, together.
Rashad Robinson is President of Color Of Change, a leading racial justice organization with more than 1.7 million members that designs winning strategies to build power for Black communities. Rashad appears regularly in major news media and as a keynote speaker nationally. You can find him on Twitter @RashadRobinson.