Thus year’s Beer Summit was virtual and centered on the views of Black leaders and advocates as they have worked to call attention to systemic racism and inequities during the pandemic.
The title of this year’s talk was Double Pandemic: COVID-19 & Racism.
The summit was organized in 2009 after the racially charged arrest of historian and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his home.
The talk was inspired by the model of then President Barack Obama’s own beer summit in which he brought together Gates and the white officer who arrested him for a conversation about race.
“Why are African-Americans more affected?” asked Dr. Ala Stanford, Founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium (BDCC) and a pediatric surgeon. “So many people have said it’s because African-Americans have poorly controlled diabetes, poor hypertension, they use the ER for their primary care doc, they don’t go to the doctor regularly, they are non-compliant.
“In medicine, as a medical student, the first thing you learn is ‘never blame the patient,’” she added. “That’s been all about blaming the patient. When you control for all the comorbid conditions, the only thing that stands out as an increased chance of disease and death is being Black.”
Stanford went on to use these stats to point out even though African-Americans are among the most vulnerable populations, locally and nationally, the ethnic group is not being treated as such. She used the example of the CARES Act, which she said provided the state with $4 billion. Of the $4 billion, $579 million was provided to local healthcare providers, including the universities.
Stanford noted the local healthcare providers are not using this money to help African-Americans fight COVID-19.
“Yes, the virus does not discriminate but the people who provide the resources for testing and open the door for you to get tested, do,” she said. “Whether it’s omission or commission, it is happening everywhere and definitely in our cities.”
Stanford acknowledged persons living in nursing homes and assisted living care facilities are also vulnerable populations but pointed out that African-Americans represent more of the population.
“The number of folks in nursing homes and personal care homes in our region is 125,000,” she said. “The percentage of African-Americans of the 1.6 million residents of Philadelphia is 44 percent or 705,000, but yet every time someone speaks — and Dr. Farley and I are working on this — he will say the most vulnerable group is our nursing home residents, which I don’t disagree with, but you’re talking about 100,000 people vs 700,000 people. So why is it that the push, the push, the push, is nursing home, nursing home, nursing home? What about the other 700,000 residents that are African-American?”
“The CARES Act paid for every test, there’s no reason hospitals should be not opening their doors wide,” Stanford added. “Even if someone doesn’t have insurance, you can get reimbursed. This is all systemic, it’s all institutional and because folks are conditioned and because there are no folks at the table making decisions, it’s just like ‘ok, we got the money … we got to use it to make sure we hit our bottom line’ but what are you doing for the vulnerable groups?”
Attorney and activist Michael Coard spoke on the “pandemic of racism,” stating it is inseparable from America.
“Racism is America and America is racism,” he said. “When people see horrible things going on, they say, ‘That’s not the America I know’ Well, you don’t know America because America, at its core, is racist and brutal and thuggish and horrific.”
Coard pointed out his statement is rooted in history as the majority of the writers of the Declaration of Independence were slave owners or slave investors and that slavery was “built into the fabric of the Constitution.”
“Everybody needs to play a role in whatever lane they are in, you might not be able or willing to be a revolutionary but you can support the revolution,” he said. “When you see those protestors out there, support the protests, support their cause, send money to the NAACP, send money to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, send money to the ACLU.”
Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen, shared a similar view, mainly calling on white people to play a bigger part.
“As a white person who does this, this is not a Black problem, this is a white problem, largely speaking,” he said. “So, it’s up to us to really look in the mirror and decide how we will be the source of this solution.
“I have a sense of hope but there are a lot of forces that don’t want change, so this is going to be a very challenging time,” Bernstein added. “But I think that we’ve got the foundation, and hearing from everyone here tonight who’s committed to doing the work gives me a sense of hope.”