Giving Compass' Take:

• Research from The National Urban League reveals that some progress was made toward equity leading up to COVID-19 but the pandemic reveals the gaps that Black, Latino, and Indigenous people face. 

• What role can you play in advancing racial equity in your community and throughout the country? 

• Find resources for donors to make systemic change for people of color.  

The 2020 State of Black America®, Unmasked, matches the national mood for serious introspection, exposing the human toll and economic devastation of a global pandemic on Black America while laying bare the deep-rooted inequities that predated the pandemic and accelerated the virus’s deadly spread.

America caught the coronavirus and Black America caught hell.

As states began to collect race-based data, a bleak picture emerged: Black, Latino and Indigenous people were getting sick and dying in higher numbers. African Americans are reportedly three times as likely to contract the coronavirus and nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as whites. The latest findings tell a chilling tale of a nation divided along racial fault lines that first erupted upon the arrival of enslaved Africans in 1619. It recounts the birth of a nation whose institutions and laws were built on top of racist ideologies that continue to oppress, terrorize and disenfranchise the descendants of the enslaved today.

Against the grim backdrop of an exploding public health crisis, the nation watched as a Black man was denied his God-given right to breathe, losing his life under a police officer’s knee pressed into the back of his neck for almost nine minutes. George Floyd’s last words: “I can’t breathe,” ignited a firestorm of protests over his unjust death. Americans spilled out into the streets, insisting—once more—that Black lives matter.

Our reporting reveals the common denominator in the alarming and disproportionate ratio of Black people left gasping for air in emergency rooms and at the hands (and knees) of law enforcement: centuries of systemic racism.

Through our partnership with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, we examine the racial underpinnings of the pandemic, honing in on the indisputable link between our nation’s legacy of systemic racism and higher rates of Black death to COVID-19. Our authors tackle the reach of the outbreak into how we live, work and vote. They delve into the erasure of Black wealth and job gains in the wake of the historic economic collapse and record-setting unemployment. They also analyze our interconnectedness, reminding us that prisoner health is indeed public health. The fate of HBCUs come fall is debated, along with the increased risk for disinformation and voter suppression in our November 2020 election.

The pandemic has forced Americans to grapple—yet again—with the enduring consequences of slavery and the prevalence of systemic racism in our society. Our public and private institutions and political systems have all been infected by this insidious disease—and must be remedied. The National Urban League stands united with all people committed to the monumental task of reckoning with our nation’s racist past—and present. We stand resolute and ready to leverage our influence and resources to break the pattern of papering over injustice with hollow reforms and symbolic gestures. We believe that without real justice, there can be no peace.

To heal our nation, we must fearlessly acknowledge and address the straight and unbroken through-line that connects 1619 to COVID-19.