Updated: May 30, 2020
It is well documented that medical disparities are prevalent in the Black community. From slaves being used for experimental procedures, to the theft of Henrietta Lacks’ cells, to not being believed about pain we go through, to the bad treatment we have to endure. The dark history between black people and not getting proper medical treatment continues to this day.
Let’s talk about this current pandemic.
This virus has its grip on the globe and does not want to let go. This virus shows not only the broken healthcare system, but how it disproportionately effects Black people. Black people have been taken at an astonishing rate. This is because of a few things that we're going to get into.
Lack of access to health insurance.
In order to get tested a person had to be referred to a testing site. If a person has no insurance and can’t pay for a doctor cost, they don’t get tested. They had to choose between losing a day’s wage and their health. This can potentially be a death sentence not only for them but their love ones. Now anyone can get tested for free, but the damage has already been done.
So now we essential huh? Many Black people have jobs that are now deemed essential. From cleaning hospitals to delivering food. Before this pandemic many of us lived paycheck to paycheck. Jobs we had were seen as lesser by the upper class. We were seen as uneducated, not worth the minimum of $15 (honestly it should be more) so we can live without the constant fear and anxiety of how we are going to pay bills.
We want to be safe as well. We want our families to be safe. Truth is we can’t afford to stay home.
We don’t have that privilege to just “ride it out”. Even if we miss just ONE day, it could mean that a bill don’t get paid, that’s less food. That leads to even more anxiety and depression on top of an already stressful situation. That will also effect a person’s’ health as well as mental health.
All that being said, we can’t just sit inside, many of us are exposing ourselves more to the virus. Elevating our chances to contract the virus. Even though companies are now providing masks, gloves, etc., this was not always the case. We had to provide our own. Stores were price gouging to a point we can’t afford a simple mask to keep us safe. We didn't expect to work during a pandemic. Although we are, we still don’t get hazard pay. A pay in my opinion is well deserved. A pay that they earned.
Overall bias and systematic oppression.
With everything I had mentioned, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed. That elephant’s name is systemic racism and oppression. None of the things I mentioned before can be fixed unless this is taken care of first. This putrid system that was put in place since the inception of this country. The proverbial glass ceiling. This is what causes mistreatment and misdiagnoses among Black people. This is what causes Black people (especially Black women) to get lower pay, this giving them no option but to risk getting a deadly virus just to keep the bills paid.
If you think we’re essential workers now, I’ll you in on a secret- we always been essential!
It just your bias and the thought anyone short of a college degree is not worth living a decent life. You may not have outright said it, but your silence to our plight says more than any performative words you can muster. Just don’t forget after this has all passed that we are essential. Don’t forget that fear and anxiety that you faced for a few months, we endured for generations.
What we want to know is now that you’ve decided we’re essential, will you keep throwing us away when the pandemic ends, or fight for our liberation?
Shevone Torres is a single mother of two children and a grandmother of one. Shevone was born in Mount Holly, N.J and grew up in Pemberton and Browns Mills, N.J. Ms. Torres is an anti-racism educator who has done work with Black Lives Matter, Green Peace, The Blue Wave, South Jersey Women for Progressive Change and other local grassroots organizations. Locally, she has started community gardens, books and breakfasts, family dinners, and has been a safe haven for young people who just needed a moment to breathe.
Nationally, Ms. Torres has done direct action work in Flint, Michigan, Houston, Texas, Washington D.C., and Boston, Massachusetts.
Shevone began this journey at a very young age. After having to process her own internal anti-Blackness, she decided to help others do the same. It was then she noticed how the anti-racism speakers would say great things but never from the lens of her life. She wanted to give a voice as well as uplift voices of those like her. Those who society would just walk past without a second glance. Coming from a place of love, she began to embark on this journey.
Not only does Ms. Torres protest, she also holds anti-racism workshops, writes blogs, and helps get money directly to those that need it. It’s something Shevone believes is an honor that she knows comes with a responsibility to hold herself accountable and always come from a place of love.
Shevone Torres can be reached by e-mail at Shevone31@gmail.com