The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting every aspect of our society and exposing deep, systemic inequalities that are killing Black people. 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.
Despite Black people being 30 percent of COVID-19 deaths, Black workers continue to step up to support and protect the entire country, at great risk to their own health and safety. For too many of these heros, their own needs aren’t being met.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, nearly 80 percent of Black people in America have to work outside of their home in service related jobs, putting them and their families at higher risk of infection.
Like many others in healthcare, Idara Inokon, is a part of that group working full time as an ICU nurse in Brooklyn. “We went from like 15 patients to 200 patients in under a week in March. It’s been a revolving door of death since then,” said Idara. “We’ve had four coworkers die from COVID-19. I know a lot of people who have had COVID and have many friends who have lost loved ones, but I’m a solutions oriented kind of person. If this is a war, this is not the time for soldiers, like me, to retreat”
Black people deserve more than thanks for this kind of heroism. They deserve the pay, benefits, time off, protective gear and job security that will keep them safe and let their families thrive. We’re not going to let the government and large corporations treat Black workers as both essential and disposable, so this week in #TheBlackResponse to COVID-19, we’re giving you five steps you can take to demand support, protection and care for Black essential workers like Idara.
The post office has historically been the first and only way for Black people to borrow and later savetheir money with bonds. Black people began the 19th century working in smaller roles in postal operations and then becamse mail carriers and even some Postmasters. Now 20 percent of postal workers are Black, but this essential service, that represents the best of what government could be, is being defunded and under resourced during the pandemic. Together we can petition Congress to reimagine today’s post office to meet the needs of the American public.
We know that workers earning poverty-level wages are disproportionatelyBlack and Latino. They shouldn't be forced to put their lives at risk in order to get food for their families. Safeway is one supermarket chain that can afford to improve food security and help flatten the curve by allowing Black SNAP benefit recipients to receive groceries and waive online delivery fees. After all, these are the same people Safeway relies on for business every day.
Janitors clean and disinfect hospitals, grocery stores, day care facilities that are still open for essential workers, and the offices of tech corporations that keep us connected. Employers, however, aren't always providing the equipment they need to stay safe during the pandemic. Typically jobs reserved for immigrants and people of color, these workers deserve to be safe as they continue this essential work. Write to your local congressperson and let’s make sure these hardworking people can protect themselves with PPEs as they continue to keep the country running.
Healthcare workers are on the frontlines risking possible exposure to the COVID-19 outbreak in order to treat the sick. We believe that these heroic men and women deserve additional compensation in the form of hazard pay for their dedication and sacrifice.
Black people are over represented in the COVID-19 essential workforce and also in the skyrocketing number of individuals who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. When people are suddenly unemployed, COBRA usually allows you have access to healthcare as possible. You can implore the highly profitable health insurance providers to step up and protect Black people instead of forcing us to shell out outrageous fees to stay alive during the pandemic.
Essential workers’ lives matter. These are the people who allow our healthcare, transportation, delivery services, fast food and grocery stores to continue to be open and accessible while selflessly saving the country. This is our moment to fight the systemic inequality that has forced Black and brown people into low paying jobs that leave our communities in poverty and the most vulnerable to this disease. Together we can hold our elected officials and corporations accountable for the harm they have caused and demand a better future for every working person in our country.
Rashad Robinson is President of Color Of Change, a leading racial justice organization with more than 1.7 million members that design 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.
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
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