Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) claimed that if reparations for slavery had been implemented, that might have helped to contain the spread of COVID during the recent global pandemic.
Jackson Lee took to the House floor on Thursday to rally support for H.R. 40, a bill that would establish a congressional commission to study the potential cost and impact of reparations.
Noting that COVID infection rates among minority communities had initially appeared to be greater than among white Americans or the population at large, Jackson Lee cited a Harvard Medical School study that said living conditions — and work environments in the African American community were more conducive to the virus’ rapid spread.
REP. JACKSON LEE: "Reparations for African-Americans could have cut COVID-19 transmission and infection rates both among blacks and the population at large." pic.twitter.com/GpgKBr2AHf
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“There is no doubt we have been impacted, that DNA in the trajectory of slavery to today. For example, COVID. Black African Americans have gotten COVID at a rate of nearly 1.5 times higher than that of white people, or hospitalized at a rate of nearly four times higher and three times likely to die. COVID hit us very desperately,” Jackson Lee began.
She explained that reparations could have moved the needle among African Americans by decreasing the wealth gap and allowing more people to access better health care, better education, and potentially less crowded living conditions.
“Reparations for African Americans could have cut COVID-19 transmission and infection rates both among blacks and the population at large,” the Texas Congresswoman continued. “Reparations are curative, they’re not punishment. The analysis continued to look at data throughout the nation.”
“Wealth is more strongly associated with familial or individual well-being,” said study co-author William Darity, the Samuel DuBois Cook Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at Duke University and a Lancet reparations commissioner. He explained that black Americans have a much lower average net worth than white Americans, adding, “This dramatically restricts the ability of Black Americans to survive and thrive.”
While Jackson Lee’s initial data was correct — black Americans did see higher infection, hospitalization, and death rates in the early months of the pandemic — more recent data show that death rates across racial demographics eventually evened out. As of October, the death rate among white Americans — according to data evaluated by The Washington Post — had “eclipsed” that of other groups.