Black Pastors Urge Trump To Focus On Virus's Heavy Impact On Minorities

The Trump administration should funnel resources to Black communities and other marginalized groups that have been hit hard by COVID-19, the pastors say.

A group of Black pastors is calling on President Donald Trump鈥檚 administration to address the racial and economic inequality that is making Black Americans and other minority communities far more vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 12 pastors from across the country signed a letter declaring that they are firsthand witnesses of what preliminary demographic data is suggesting 鈥 that COVID-19, the illness resulting from the virus, is killing Black Americans at disproportionately high rates.

The pandemic has exposed decades of 鈥渟tructural racism and policy violence鈥 that have impeded Black communities鈥 health and access to care, according to Rev. William J. Barber II, the prominent progressive Christian activist whose advocacy group Repairers of the Breach helped organize the letter.

鈥淲e need to address these inequalities now and not just some time in the future if we鈥檙e going to address this pandemic,鈥 Barber said in an April 15 video press conference announcing the letter.

The letter is addressed to America鈥檚 top politicians 鈥 Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Surgeon General Jerome Adams and members of the White House coronavirus task force.

The 12 pastors are demanding that these leaders ensure that racial minorities, low-wage essential workers, homeless individuals, and imprisoned people have access to protective gear, testing and health care.

The Trump administration should set up testing sites and field hospitals in Black and poor communities hit hard by the virus, and release data on the impact COVID-19 is having on Black and other marginalized racial groups, the pastors said. Congress should pass a COVID-19 relief bill that focuses just on communities of color and poor, low-wealth communities, the pastors added.

Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas who signed the letter, said 鈥渕edical apartheid鈥 and 鈥淶IP code injustice,鈥 are among the 鈥減reexisting conditions鈥 that Black Americans face.

鈥淲e live in a country where skin color is hazardous to one鈥檚 health and mortality is not determined by one鈥檚 genetic code but instead by one鈥檚 ZIP code,鈥 Haynes said in the video. 鈥淲e appeal to you to channel treatment and resources to those areas in our body politic that have suffered the most from this national infection that has allowed this virus to spread disproportionately.鈥

Other signers of the letter include Rev. Traci Blackmon, a Missouri pastor who leads justice initiatives for the United Church of Christ, Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP, and Rev. Terry Melvin, a labor leader from New York.

Rev. William Barber II is the pastor of <a href="" target="_blank" role="link" class=" js-entry-link cet-external-link" data-vars-item-name="Greenleaf Christian Church" data-vars-item-type="text" data-vars-unit-name="5e9f0092c5b6b2e5b8385510" data-vars-unit-type="buzz_body" data-vars-target-content-id="" data-vars-target-content-type="url" data-vars-type="web_external_link" data-vars-subunit-name="article_body" data-vars-subunit-type="component" data-vars-position-in-subunit="5">Greenleaf Christian Church</a> in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and president of Repairers of the Breach, a faith-based advocacy group.
Rev. William Barber II is the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and president of Repairers of the Breach, a faith-based advocacy group.
JOSH EDELSON via Getty Images

Most cities and states aren鈥檛 reporting race in their COVID-19 counts, so a clear, national picture of the situation across the U.S. is not yet available. But initial studies point to an alarming trend.

Counties that are majority-Black have almost six times the rate of coronavirus-related deaths than counties that are majority-white, according to a Washington Post analysis from early April.

On Easter Sunday, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot said African Americans in her city accounted for 72% of virus-related fatalities, even though they make up only 30% of the population. In Michigan, 40% of coronavirus-related deaths were in the Black community, even though just 13.6% of the state鈥檚 population is Black.

These disparities reflect longstanding structural inequalities that Black Americans and other marginalized racial groups have faced, the pastors wrote in their letter. The clergy pointed out that Black Americans are overrepresented among the prison population and among low-wage essential workers who can鈥檛 do their jobs from home during the pandemic. They often live in racially segregated inner cities and rural communities that have been 鈥渘eglected for decades,鈥 are disproportionately uninsured or underinsured, and face discrimination within health care settings, the pastors said.

In addition, the Trump administration鈥檚 鈥渞eckless and uncoordinated鈥 response to the pandemic has led to 鈥渁voidable and unnecessary death that is wreaking havoc on Black communities,鈥 the letter stated.

Trump acknowledged the virus鈥檚 disproportionate impact on Black communities in a White House task force briefing on April 7. He promised that Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma, would provide statistics about how COVID-19 is impacting Black communities in a 鈥渃ouple of days.鈥 Verma said Monday that this data won鈥檛 be available until early May.

The White House did not respond to HuffPost鈥檚 request for comment on the letter.

Rev. Traci Blackmon is a minister for justice and local church ministries for the United Church of Christ, and the senior pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri.
Rev. Traci Blackmon is a minister for justice and local church ministries for the United Church of Christ, and the senior pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri.
Michael B. Thomas via Getty Images

Blackmon, one of the letter鈥檚 signers, is the pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ, a small church of about 80 congregants in Florissant, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Blackmon said that her congregation is full of 鈥渦ndervalued workers performing essential work鈥 鈥 cooks, cleaning staff, bus drivers, taxi drivers, hotel workers, grocery workers and mail carriers.

Five members of her church have been diagnosed with COVID-19, she said. Blackmon said three of those parishioners had to go to the hospital three times before they were given tests 鈥 which means they were sent home to their families and communities while positive.

Blackmon said she is presiding over two funerals for people who have died from the disease.

鈥淭his is my reality,鈥 Blackmon said with tears in her eyes during the video call. 鈥淭his is all of our reality as pastors and we will not be silent any more.鈥

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