Ed Young’s “Anatomy of an American Failure” Commentary

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?

2 thoughts on “Ed Young’s “Anatomy of an American Failure” Commentary

  1. Logan D'Amore

    In her analysis of Ed Young’s “Anatomy of an American Failure”, Kaeli does a great job drawing parallels through past readings and the disproportional affects of the coronavirus pandemic on the Black community in America. More specifically, she uses the Henrietta Lack’s story alongside Daniel’s statement of rights to healthcare regarding “normal functioning” to show the painful similarities Black American’s face today and more than 70 years ago. In Young’s article it was appalling to see not only the statistical differences that Black American’s have faced as consequences of the coronavirus, but that former slave states were some of the first to lift social distancing measures while also investing the least amount of money in public health. Thus, leading to highly affected Black communities, in regards to health, as Kaeli stated. She then draws the parallel between Henrietta Lack’s and the unequal treatment of Black patients in America not truly changing throughout the years. When reading the article, Henrietta and her family’s story immediately came to my mind as it has many similarities to the patients Young mentioned. So, I could not agree more with Kaeli that it is nearly disgraceful to see the unfair, unequal treatment of Black American’s in healthcare, that could have a resolution, not being addressed enough and or correctly. Lastly, Kaeli questions Daniel’s “normal function” and how we can address the problem of people continually being exposed because of their area of work. To discuss the question posed, I believe the vaccine would be a vital tool. Even though distribution has not been decided quite yet, we could use the same “normal functioning” technique with the vaccine to address the the problem of people continually being exposed.

  2. Katherine Gao

    Kaeli does a brilliant job of pointing out the parallels between Young’s “Anatomy of An American Failure” to the story of Henrietta Lacks. Just as Kaeli mentions, it is so important to acknowledge that although Henrietta Lacks’ story took place nearly 70 years ago, the inequities that the black community faces are still ever present in modern healthcare, and the COVID pandemic has only exacerbated these. On top of living in poor conditions that were likely to increase health problems, Henrietta and her family struggled to afford and receive medical treatment since very few hospitals at the time treated black patients. Similarly and unfortunately, today, those in the black community are disproportionately affected by the COVID pandemic because systemic injustices cause them to be more likely to have preexisting conditions, less likely to have health insurance, and more likely to work low-paying essential jobs.
    In relation to “A Vaccine Reality Check”, this is a huge reason why on top of essential healthcare workers, marginalized communities should also be considered a priority in the distribution of a vaccine. Because actually abolishing systemic injustices is a gradual process, the best thing that can be done now is to give the vaccine to those that are continually and unavoidably exposed to the virus. In order for everyone to get closer to the “normal functioning” that Kaeli refers to, the benefit must first be given to the most disadvantaged in society so that everyone can achieve an equal playing field.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *