April 3, 2020
By Akilah Johnson and Talia Buford, ProPublica
The authors focus on conditions in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where at the time of writing, “African Americans made up almost half of Milwaukee County’s 945 cases and 81% of its 27 deaths in a county whose population is 26% black.” They go on to cite evidence from other cities in Michigan and North Carolina, noting that the virus is “unmasking the deep disinvestment in our communities, the historical injustices and the impact of residential segregation,”
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Environmental, economic and political factors have compounded for generations, putting black people at higher risk of chronic conditions that leave lungs weak and immune systems vulnerable: asthma, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. In Milwaukee, simply being black means your life expectancy is 14 years shorter, on average, than someone white.
“When COVID-19 passes and we see the losses … it will be deeply tied to the story of post-World War II policies that left communities marginalized,” Sprague said. “Its impact is going to be tied to our history and legacy of racial inequities. It’s going to be tied to the fact that we live in two very different worlds.”