Global Citizen hosted their 12th annual Beer Summit, The Double Pandemic: COVID-19 & Racism, virtually on Thursday evening.
Organized in 2009 after the racially charged arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., an iconic Black historian and Harvard professor, the Summit 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.
Thursday’s conversation centered on the views of Black leaders and advocates as they have worked to call attention to systemic racism and inequities throughout the pandemic.
“Why are African-Americans more affected? 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,” said Dr. Ala Stanford, Founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium (BDCC) and a pediatric surgeon.
“In medicine, as a medical student, the first thing you learn is ‘never blame the patient.’ That’s been all about blaming the patient. When you control for all the co-morbid 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 that even though African-Americans are among the most vulnerable populations, locally and nationally, they are not being treated as such. She used the example of the CARES Act, which she said provided the state with $4 billion. Of this $4 billion, $579 million was provided to local healthcare providers, including the universities.
Stanford noted that 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. Whether it’s omission or commission, it is happening everywhere and definitely in our cities,” she said.
“The CARES ACT gave $4 billion to the state of Pennsylvania, $579 million of those dollars went specifically — $100 million to Jefferson about $70 million to PENN, $50 million to Temple. And we were so busy in the midst of the pandemic in May that we all missed that - money supposed to be spent by Dec. 31, 2020 to mitigate the spread in vulnerable populations.”
Stanford did acknowledge that 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. 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?” she said.
“The CARES Act paid for every test, there’s no reason hospitals should be not opening their doors wide. 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 that it is inseparable from America.
“Racism is America and America is racism. 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 that his statement is rooted in history as the majority of the writers of the Declaration of Independence were slaveowners or slave investors and that slavery was “built into the fabric of the Constitution.”
He also cited modern examples of what he described as legalized racism in the judicial system, stating that the Supreme Court, in 2013, “gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” when they took out a key piece of legislation that mandated jurisdictions with a history of racism no longer needed approval before they changed voting rules.
“When we talk about these two pandemics - COVID and racism – it’s there…But this is the question I pose to those who might disagree with what I said – let’s say tomorrow you were a defendant in a criminal case and all things being equal - same income, same education, same homeownership, same neighborhood, same religion - you could go to trial tomorrow as a white defendant or Black defendant, which would you select?” Coard asked. “And if you’re honest, the answer proves there is a real pandemic of racism in America.”
Most of the speakers agreed that educating on America’s past and present, within one’s respective social and family circles, and without is key, in addition to people working for change in ways that they could.
“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....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…” said Coard.
“So you don’t have to necessarily be on the front lines doing it but you need to support those that are, and to my white comrades out there - in addition to coming to Black people and showing how well intentioned you are, how pure of heart you are...you got to go to your fellow white folk at your church, at your mosque, at your synagogue, at your job, at your golf course, at your restaurants. If you can share with them, the same great things you share with us, then the battle is basically won. It’s not so much white vs Black. It never has been. It’s always been good versus evil. Good white folks, good Black folks. Evil white folks, evil Black folks. We just go to make sure the good ones defeat the evil ones.”
Todd Bernstein, President, 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. So, it’s up to us to really look in the mirror and decide how we will be the source of this solution,” he said.
“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. 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.”