Washington, D.C. (April 7, 2020) – The NAACP held a press conference to highlight the alarming statistics around COVID-19 after early data confirmed what NAACP policy experts speculated, Black Americans are infected and dying at a disproportionate rate across the country. The lack of access to care, information, and pre-existing conditions all contribute to rising deaths in the Black community.
The press conference included remarks from Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP; Marjorie Innocent, Ph.D., Senior Director of Health, NAACP; Marvin Owens, Senior Director, Economics Department, NAACP; and Jacqueline Patterson, Director, Environmental and Climate Justice Program, NAACP. Each policy expert spoke to the ill effects of the coronavirus on communities of color and what can be achieved if data is made readily available on a federal, state and local level in regards to infection and mortality rates.
Derrick Johnson, president, and CEO, NAACP:
"As we see the incidents of coronavirus cases and deaths, we're beginning notice the shocking numbers in the black community. In places like Detriot, Michigan, African Americans make up only 14% of the population but account for 33% of the coronavirus cases and 41% of the deaths. These numbers expose the lack of equity and showcase the deficits that we've all known about, but when you put an accelerant like coronavirus in the midst, African Americans are disproportionately impacted."
Marjorie Innocent, Ph.D., Senior Director of Health, NAACP:
Many of the social systems and structures in our country have long placed African Americans in a very disadvantageous position. Racism has definitely led to a lack of investment in the African American community in terms of healthcare and health outcomes compared to the population overall. Demographic information from the CDC will enable us to mitigate the impact of the virus."
Jacqueline Patterson, Director, Environmental and Climate Justice Program, NAACP:
"We have government responses that prioritize protecting the profits of big corporations while comparatively neglecting to advance the response at the scale and depth that truly upholds the wellbeing of people. The tie between corporate interest, policymakers, and our policies are far too enmeshed. All of this combined ensures that Black, indigenous and other communities of color experience the harshest fall out of the direct impact of COVID-19."
Marvin Owens, Senior Director, Economics Department, NAACP:
"What we're facing with this virus is the creation of an economic perfect storm for African American communities. Prior to this pandemic, African Americans were already facing challenges in terms of higher rates of employment, significant loses in homeownership and wealth. What we're facing now is an uncovering of decades of economic discrimination that everyone can see now because we don't have the economic cushion to weather this storm."
In addition to covering the topics of health, economics, and environmental justice, the policy experts spoke about remedies and measures the NAACP is taking to bring attention to this pandemic.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP's work and our "Game Changer" issue areas here.