America kills its poorest

America kills its poorest

The Corona crisis shows how segregated the United States is: African Americans die far more often than whites. But Donald Trump has never been interested in her.

© Joshua Lott / Reuters
In Chicago, far more African Americans die of Covid-19 than whites.

It’s not that dramatic in Chicago yet. It’s not that dramatic in Cleveland or Charleston yet. Everyone is still looking to New York in the Corona crisis. The city has been hit harder than any other region in the country, life has completely stopped, the numbers are drastic. More than 4,500 people have already died in the city, and more than 81,000 have been infected. And while US president Donald Trump with the greatest gesture, as usual, to ship the world’s largest hospital ship to New York, where it is not yet so dramatic, those who do not play a major role in this country, even in quieter times, die.

African Americans, as the first statistics from different states show, die much more frequently from Covid-19 than whites. In Chicago, in the Midwest USA, almost three million people live. The city has just over 5,500 infected so far, more than half of whom are African-American. And if they’re infected, their risk of dying is extremely high: “Infected blacks die seven times more often than any other population,” said Democratic Afro-American Mayor of Chicago, Lorie Lightfoot, this week.

And that’s not because the city has mostly black citizens. Less than a third of the population is African American. The situation is similar in other cities and states. In Louisiana, 70 percent of the dead are black. However, they only make up a third of the population in the state in the south of the country. In Michigan, 40 percent of the deceased are African-American, and their share of the population is 14 percent. The numbers and statistics will repeat as the virus spreads.

It is not an accidental phenomenon. It is a structural problem. The lack of a welfare state in the USA, the lack of health care and the disastrous crisis management of the president hit the country’s underprivileged and poorest hardest. The idea, still burned into American DNA, that anyone in this country can do it if they have enough ambition shows their hypocrisy in these days of crisis. It is nothing more than a worn phrase, a myth. More than 38 million Americans live in poverty, a quarter of them are African-American, only Native Americans have an even higher poverty rate.

Chicago Mayor Lightfoot estimates that 40,000 hospital beds alone are needed in her city to treat Covid 19 patients. During her press conference, she said this would bring the city to the brink of collapse.

But those who already die from the virus will not get these beds. Even if they exist. Chicago is a segregated city. Even in normal life, medical care does not reach people living on the South Side and West Side of Chicago. In the poorest areas of the city, where the vast majority are African-American and Hispanic, cigarettes are sold individually on the street corners because very few can afford a whole box. Poverty and unemployment are high, as is violence, supermarkets are not superstores here, but small corner shops. Families live together in a small space, life takes place on the streets and verandas as soon as it warms up. Social distancing is difficult here. A visit to the doctor, if you cough, much less.

Even if Chicago manages to better prepare for the pandemic, the beds and ventilators will only reach those who live in the lake-view apartments a few subway stops from the poor neighborhoods. Access to education, a good job, a good neighborhood, and medical care: all of this is still easier for whites in the United States to do.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the southern United States in 2005, all of this was carried into American living rooms through terrible pictures. At the time, the actor Danny Glover said at a fundraiser that the media would put it incorrectly: the disaster had not made the region a third world country, it had disclosed a third world country.

The same applies to the Corona crisis 15 years later: It shows the developing country America. Only it will affect everyone in the country, not just one region. And crisis management is the responsibility of a president who has never been interested in the weak, the poor and the minorities. Donald Trump will do nothing to address the country’s major social crisis in this crisis.

It would be a challenge for every president, because it would mean questioning the United States’ self-image to a certain extent and not holding on to the fact that things like state-organized social and health care are obscure. Now the chance would be to actually change something about it because many people understand that it is time. And that it can’t be right to go bankrupt with an illness, or worse, to endanger yourself and others, and in the worst case, just because you can’t afford to stay at home.

But Donald Trump will not tackle the change, will not live up to responsibility. He’d rather hold daily press conferences, blaming someone else for everything – sometimes China, sometimes Europe, sometimes the WHO – and patting himself on the back for his greatness. The Americans don’t do that anymore. According to a recent CNN survey (here as pdf) 55 percent of respondents believe that the Trump administration has not done enough to prevent the virus from spreading.

Citizens earn more. They deserve that their government cares. And the weakest of them deserve to change something in the minds of everyone living on the privileged side of Chicago and the country, and to take action on November 3rd when they elect a new president.

You will find all current information and recommendations from the Ministry of Health here.

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