Op-Ed

Police in Phoenix, ready for protestors

Photo by AJ Colores on Unsplash

Pandemics are often thought to be unforeseeable acts of God that emerge suddenly to wreak havoc on unsuspecting populations. But that’s not how public health practitioners think about them. More often than not, pandemics have a political economy behind them, in which substandard living and working conditions connected to social inequalities produce opportunities for disease to spread unchecked. That was true for the 1918 flu pandemic that started on farms in Haskell County, Kan., and it also appears to account for the emergence of the novel coronavirus.

Those social and political contexts also help explain another pandemic — one that, like the coronavirus that still rages, is also disproportionately killing black Americans. Make no mistake: Police violence is a public health problem.

Three months into the widespread outbreak in the United States, the data on racial disparities in coronavirus infections and deaths is staggering. Majority-black counties have three times the rate of infections and nearly six times the rate of deaths as their white counterparts, according to a Washington Post analysis from April.... see more