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Roots of Anger: Top 3 Reasons African-Americans have Lost Most in the Coronavirus Depression

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Even before the nation-wide demonstrations that have racked the nation and led to arrests in 17 cities, over the wrongful death at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman of George Floyd, the situation of African-Americans in this country was cratering because of the pandemic and its associated economic Depression.

Some of the anger we see in US cities is a revolution of rising expectations. African-Americans were just beginning to experience some wage growth in recent years. That has just been wiped out.

1. Black unemployment has risen to over 16 percent.

The Guardian reported that...

    "40% of households earning less than $40,000 have experienced job losses, according to the Federal Reserve."

The Guardian continues...

    "Only 20% of black workers reported being eligible to work from home, compared with about 30% of their white counterparts, according to the Economic Policy Institute."

2. The Black middle class is being hollowed out, with hundreds of thousands of businesses going under:

The novel coronavirus and the shutdown have devastated the small new Black middle class. The number of working black business owners has fallen 41 percent since February. That is, nearly half of Black businesses are mothballed, and some of them will never come back.

The country has lost 450,000 Black businesses. They were disproportionately in sectors of the economy worst-hit by closures -- hair and nail salons, taxis, restaurants, daycare centers. Moreover, WaPo's Hannah Knowles writes, they don't have deep pockets and were likely just scraping by to begin with. They also have more difficulty accessing government aid (much of which was scooped up by white chains). They are often too tiny, or don't have employees, and so don't meet the criteria set by Congress.

3. COVID-19 has hit African-Americans twice as hard as other groups.

By May 20, some 20,000 African-Americans had died of COVID-19, compared to 92,128 total deaths as of a week and a half ago. That is nearly 22%. African-Americans are 12% of the population, so they are dying at almost twice the proportional rate. Ed Pilkington of the Guardian writes,

    "Across the country, African Americans have died at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans."

Since a lot of poor elderly people have died in their beds without ever being diagnosed, the numbers are likely even worse than the CDC is reporting.

The reasons for which African-Americans have died at such disproportionate rates are rooted in the systematic racism practiced against them by the majority white society.

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Juan Cole is an American academic and commentator on the modern Middle East and South Asia.  He is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Since 2002, he has written a weblog, Informed Comment (more...)

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