Tonight, I write to you with a sobering reality which people of color have faced for centuries. The fact that racism permeates throughout all aspects of life for those who have been placed on the margin of society. The legacy of hundreds and hundreds of years of slavery, racist and oppressive policies that black and brown people have suffered, led us to the troubling realities which many of us face today.
Poor healthcare, lack of job security, and lack of safety for black and brown bodies in their own communities. None of this is anything you haven’t heard before, but is it happening in real time during the Coronavirus pandemic? I have been trying very hard to advocate for prevention of gross disparity based on race, in the delivery of healthcare and public safety during this crisis. However, it is not as clear cut as it would be during ‘peace’ time, whether or not policy is being swiftly enacted based on racial disparity prevention.
There is no denying the fact that our essential workers have been particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure. As we began to work from home, they continued to show up for work, putting themselves and their families at risk everyday. Within New York City alone, 75 percent of all frontline workers are people of color, including 82 percent of cleaning services employees. More than 40 percent of transit employees are black, while over 60 percent of cleaning workers are Hispanics, according to data released by the Comptroller’s Office. The truth of the matter is, we have been on the frontlines for centuries and now, and in the midst of this pandemic, we are experiencing disproportionate rates of infection and death but where are the stats?
In Chicago, African-Americans account for a little less than a third of the population but 72 percent of virus-related fatalities. Despite the advocacy, questioning, and repeat questioning we are still left not knowing the facts about who is being tested, who is being admitted and who is experiencing loss of life broken down by race.
Well, I am here to tell you that I will never let our suffering be silenced, I will keep advocating for policy and legislation that helps flatten the curve on COVID-19 infections, as well as negative policy impact across racial lines. It is my hope that soon our city will be able to produce quantitative data like they are in Chicago.
In the meantime, be sure to cover your nose and mouth when in public, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing when going out for essentials, and stay connected! #SpreadJoyNotGerms
Take care and stay well,
Laurie A. Cumbo
Majority Leader, New York City Council