Outside the Margins: COVID-19, Health Inequalities and the Black Community

Photo of student in class with iPad

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend a virtual panel discussion, “Outside the Margins: COVID-19, Health Inequalities and the Black Community” that examined the broad economic and health impacts that COVID-19 has had, and will continue to have, on the African American community.

It was one of several crucial ways the Office for Institutional Diversity (OID) at UK — along with Student and Academic Life’s Bias Incident Support Services and other campus partners — continues to further engage students, faculty, staff and the broader community in reflection about how diverse backgrounds and identities have distinctive experiences and realities that adversely impact their quality of life.

Earlier in April, we also highlighted the negative impact that stereotyping has on many Asian and Asian American members of our UK family.

These conversations are vital to our understanding of the unique struggles in the lives of minority populations relative to COVID-19, and OID is committed to offering several more opportunities for this kind of dialogue throughout the summer.

We know that — despite the precautionary measures society has taken — the current global pandemic has had a disproportionate toll on black communities. According to recent preliminary nationwide data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30% of COVID-19 patients are African American, although African Americans make up only 13% of the population of the United States.

This striking overrepresentation of African Americans among confirmed COVID-19 patients is one example of the glaring inequalities that define everyday life for many Americans. 

These are our brothers and sisters. They are our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones; our classmates, our instructors, our fellow Wildcats.

And, this is a time that history will remember. Did we come together, united in our efforts to not only stand in solidarity with diverse and minoritized communities, but recognize these disparities and act? Or, did we sweep it under the rug, overlooking their challenges — challenges so deeply ingrained in the society we built?

The panel brought together some of the most qualified individuals in the field of health care to validate these long-standing challenges: Rebecca Dutch, professor in the UK College of Medicine; Anita Fernander, associate professor of behavioral science in the UK College of Medicine; V. Faye Jones, associate vice president for health affairs/diversity initiatives at the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center; and Vivian Lasley-Bibbs, director of the Kentucky Department of Public Health.

If you were not able to attend the panel, you can watch the event here.

I’m deeply grateful for this invaluable learning and opportunity that allows us to continue critical dialogues about myriad inequities that compels us to work toward change.

In this reinvented normal, it’s a refreshing reminder of the hope that lies ahead.