As public health officials release preliminary details on statewide COVID-19 death rates, a harrowing, yet all too familiar trend has become evident: In communities across Illinois, deep seated systems of racial inequality have disproportionately exposed people of color to the fatal consequences of this historic pandemic. Staggering racial divides in generational wealth, employment opportunity, homeownership rates, and healthcare access account for the fivefold disparity in death rates between Black and White Illinoisans. Similarly, early economic indicators confirm that the COVID-19 crisis will only further exacerbate the abiding structural barriers to financial opportunity that Illinois’ Black workers, business owners, and households have endured for generations.
Despite the projected magnitude of this unprecedented catastrophe and its astoundingly racialized impacts, initial government relief measures have proven to be, not only distressingly modest in scope, but also markedly “color blind.” Over the course of the past century, communities of color have witnessed how purportedly “race neutral” national recovery mobilizations have, in fact, expressly served to advance white prosperity to the exclusion of Black opportunity. Time and again, from the New Deal, to the post-war G.I. bill, to the 2008 financial crisis bailouts, U.S. domestic recovery policies have served to exacerbate racial inequality in every aspect of American society.
The preliminary government response to the COVID-19 pandemic forecasts a comparable trajectory. The national CARES Act falls disastrously short in providing sufficient levels of economic relief to American households, and leaves large populations of disproportionately Black individuals behind altogether. Moreover, by failing to account for the overwhelming institutional barriers Black business owners face in accessing financial credit, the bill’s small business recovery program will only serve to further amplify the nation’s alarming racial wealth gap.
In order to counter the devastating racialized toll that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the health and economic stability of Black communities across Illinois, WCRJ has put forth an assertive COVID-19 response plan that explicitly addresses the most urgent policy priorities of Black Illinoisans in the midst of this public health crisis.
We need your help to ensure that these critical measures are implemented by demanding action from our elected officials.