The emergence of COVID-19 has laid bare disturbing differences in health status by race. As of the most recent tallies, Black, Hispanic and Native American persons have roughly three times the rate of hospitalization and double the rate of death as compared to white Americans. The cause is multifactorial and includes the consequences of differential access to care and differential access to employment opportunities that lend themselves to remote work. These lopsided numbers do not lend themselves to debate about who is bearing the greatest burden from COVID-19 and continue to signal a clear call to action.
Overall, the impact of COVID-19 on Asian populations in the U.S. has mirrored that of whites in terms of deaths and hospitalizations. However, owing to the origin of the virus in China and the rising politics of blame, hate crimes against Asians have risen sharply in most major cities across the U.S. It is absurd to blame a Chinese person (or any other person of Asian descent) for a disease with which they had nothing to do. The pain of experiencing or witnessing these acts is severe, and it is every bit as important to address these acts as those which have differentially affected other populations.
These unnecessary and harmful divisions have been heightened by the stresses, isolation and fears associated with COVID-19. However, there is often opportunity in tragedy. We can take lessons from this experience to diversify our institutions and to educate our children and ourselves on ways to be allies for communities that face discrimination of any kind. We can develop innovative solutions for the delivery of health care which solve access by zip code and other fundamental issues. Most of all, we can embrace the strength which comes from the differences in our interests, backgrounds, perspectives and traditions. It is that strength that will allow us to overcome the many future challenges we inevitably will face.