In 2020, the world was shocked and stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States was especially affected by the pandemic, due to the U.S. government’s categorization of the disease.
Government officials initially stated the disease was a hoax and overall something that Americans did not have to worry about. This misinformation, miscategorization and misleading was allowed to go unchecked until the American death toll began to drastically rise.
At the point when Americans began to realize that we and our loved ones were in danger, for many people, it was far too late. Our government failed to protect us by not equipping us with the proper knowledge, necessary protocols and vital resources to minimize the harm caused by the disease.
By failing to provide these elements, Americans were caught off guard and as a result, more than 550,000 people lost their lives, according to the CDC. These were fathers, mothers, children, grandparents, cousins, friends and they were all people who deserved more from the U.S. government.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on minority communities. Minority communities have experienced higher rates of infection and death from the disease, as well as greater economic impact.
The African American community has been negatively impacted by discrimination in health care, lack of health care access, reluctance to seek medical care, disproportionate representation in essential work settings, crowded housing conditions and educational, income and wealth gaps. Each of these factors plays a role in the high rates of infection and death among the African American population.
One of the most prominent of these factors is African Americans’ reluctance to seek medical care. This is based on their distrust in the government and health care systems responsible for inequities in treatment and historical events like the Tuskegee Experiment and eugenics programs.
The Tuskegee Experiment was an ethically unjustified study of untreated syphilis in African American males conducted between 1932-1972 by the United States Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The African American men who participated in the study were promised free health care from the federal government, but this promise was a lie. The study was originally supposed to last for six months but instead lasted for 40 years, even after it lost the funding.
None of the participants were ever treated for syphilis nor did they know they had syphilis. All of the African American men were told they were being treated for “bad blood.” Although the cure for syphilis (a shot of penicillin) was widely available by 1947, it was never administered to any of the participants. For forty years, participants were forced to suffer through the symptoms of syphilis with 128 of the 600 participants dying.
Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices aimed at improving the genetic quality of the human population, historically advanced by white supremacy. In America, eugenics was utilized to preserve the position of the white race as the dominant group in the population.
Eugenics programs were present across the United States, and their purpose was to sterilize people without their permission. The focus of these programs was to minimize minority populations by limiting their ability to procreate. Both African American men and women, of a variety of ages, were often the targets of these forced sterilizations, although the women often outnumbered the men.
These eugenic programs were overtly racist in their objectives and their implementation across society. Both the Tuskegee Experiment and the Eugenic Programs have led to a valid distrust of the government and health care professionals by African Americans.
Our country has reached a point where multiple COVID-19 vaccines are available, and much of the population is being vaccinated. After a year of being forced to comply with pandemic protocols, a return to normalcy seems to be on the horizon. However, minority populations, especially African Americans, are still not comfortable receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
The government has a duty to rebuild African Americans’ trust in medicine, specifically the COVID-19 vaccine. There is a duty to provide African Americans with information on the vaccine, explanations for why the vaccine was created so fast and most importantly why we need to receive it.
Due to the longstanding distrust of the government, there should be commercials advocating for and detailing the facts of the COVID-19 vaccine, reports explaining that millions of dollars and resources were poured into crafting and perfecting the vaccine and press conferences recommending that African Americans get vaccinated due to their disproportionately high risk of infection and death.
The government’s actions are what have led us to where we are today, thus, they must right their wrongs and protect African Americans and Americans as a whole.