An overwhelming number of emergency managers in the U.S. are white, and the profession must diversify to reverse decades of disaster response policies that have shunned minority communities and perpetuated racial discrimination, a state emergency manager told Congress yesterday.
The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color requires the urgent integration of equity into emergency management. Disasters amplify existing inequities on a larger and more visible scale. Like a mirror reflecting our imperfections, disasters show us who we really are as people. Disasters present of vivid picture of those who we prioritize and how our most vulnerable are treated. This disaster has once again brought to light the glaring disparities that continue to entrap far too many communities of color in a continuous cycle of tragedy and loss. Institutional racism serves as the fuel that creates the inequities that combust when disasters strike. Discriminatory economic and social policies are the root cause for the vulnerability faced by marginalized communities. Decades of divestments have created impoverished communities across the country that lack basic necessities including affordable, safe, and adequate housing. Federal and State guidance to “socially distance” to limit the spread of COVID-19 is difficult when systemic racism has confined impoverished families to occupy incredibly small living spaces. Environmental injustices have located toxic facilities in and around communities of color contributing to concentration of black and brown people with the same “underlining conditions” (asthma, cancer, etc) that makes COVID-19 so fatal.
Disasters bring to light a hard truth: the poor, minorities, immigrants and other marginalized groups are acceptable losses of life. Rooted within the military, medical and insurance industries, “acceptable losses” refers to the number of expected casualties that are tolerable. We can see this right now with Covid-19, as groups of people already disadvantaged by systemic injustices are dying in greater numbers than those who have been historically privileged.
The federal government must deploy a targeted strategy to ensure minority communities most susceptible to the coronavirus have free and easy access to testing, health-care advocates told a House subcommittee.
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