Ed Young’s article detailing the “failure” of America’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic highlights many of the inequalities and healthcare problems pervading our country. He explains that women, the elderly, dementia patients, people with mental disabilities, Asian Americans, Black Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans have all been disproportionately affected. Young continues to expand on how Black Americans have been impacted, explaining that they account for 30% of the 3.1 Million people in America who cannot afford health insurance and claiming that this is a modern day continuation of Jim Crow when hospitals were not built around Black communities and Black patients were separated into separate hospital wings if they were able to seek treatment. Former slave states, he cites, were some of the first to lift social distancing measures around Covid and invest the lowest amount of money in public health. The result? Covid has disproportionately affected the Black community as a result of the medical disadvantages already in place, higher rates of chronic illnesses, and their roles as low paid, essential workers. All the “existing inequities stack the odds in favor of the virus.”
The parallels between Black American’s lives now, spotlighted through Covid-19, and Henrietta Lacks’ story 70 years ago are shamefully similar, because she as well as her family faced numerous inequalities when seeking medical treatment, were effectively being forced to work and live in unhealthy environments, and possessed distrust in medicine resulting from their experiences. Henrietta had to drive or walk a very far distance to get to Johns Hopkins, because there were no hospitals near her that would treat black patients. They lived next to toxic factories and the men worked there to support their families. Additionally, all the Lacks were wary of going to the doctors because of fear at how they would be treated, exactly similar to a patient in Young’s article. The fact that Black patients, and really all Americans, are still not being treated equitably in regards to medical treatment is a disgrace. It makes me think back to Daniel’s article, stating that everyone is entitled to the necessary resources to achieve “normal functioning” in society and compete, as equally possible, for opportunities. Healthcare is thus a right to achieve said normal functioning, and it not being available impedes citizens ability to thrive. The question again however thus arises, what really is “normal functioning” and even if it is achieved, how do we address the problem of people continually being exposed to Covid-19 because of their area of work?