Do COVID-19 Racial Disparities Matter?

By Coleman Hughes

There is now a racial justice angle on the coronavirus pandemic. Ibram X. Kendi, Director of Antiracist Research at American University, led the charge in the Atlantic a week ago, calling for data on COVID-19 deaths broken down by race.

https://quillette.com/2020/04/13/do-covid-19-racial-disparities-matter/

According to one view, this racial disparity amounts to evidence of systemic racism. But the argument rests on the false presumption that, in the absence of racism, we would see equal health outcomes by race. The data suggest otherwise.

In some cases, there are obvious biological reasons for racial disparities in disease. Melanin content alone might explain the racial disparity in skin cancer, for example. But in other cases, the source of the disparity is mysterious. Why are whites more likely to die of Alzheimer’s?

But absent some hitherto undiscovered genetic factor, focusing on race makes about as much sense as focusing on, say, religion. If anyone bothers to look, there will probably be disparities between Catholics and Protestants. Yet no one will feel the need to mention these at a press conference, and our public health efforts will not suffer as a result.