The racial disparities in the coronavirus pandemic are already well documented, but a group of researchers have found that racial bias has actually helped to fuel the spread of the disease. Their conclusions resulted after examining how treatment is applied at the county level.
Writing in The Conversation, an independent news website, Texas A&M researchers George B. Cunningham, Professor of Sport Management and Lisa T. Wigfall, Assistant Professor of Health and Kinesiology, pointed out advantages white people tend to have over minorities. Specifically, they analyzed how racial attitudes in communities influenced the border picture of what happens to coronavirus patients.
The study reads:
“We focused on two kinds of racial attitudes. The first, explicit, represents those attitudes that people intentionally maintain. Here, people express negative attitudes toward a group, or toward people they think belong to that group. An example came in Minnesota, where health workers offering free COVID-19 testing were called various racial epithets.
We also examined implicit racial attitudes. These are the automatic, unintentional responses people have. Though they take a different form, implicit racial attitudes can and do affect people’s behaviors. A health-related example comes when people make an automatic assumption that “actual physicians or nurses” are white.”
When looking at the health and demographics of county residents in data collected from USAFacts of total cases and deaths collected from Jan. 22 through Aug. 31, the researchers found explicit racial attitudes were related to coronavirus cases. These attitudes were linked to the automatic, unintended racial biases people have, for example assumptions that doctors and nurses are white.
The study continues:
“We suggest that, when examined at the aggregate level, racial attitudes reflect systemic forms of racism. They show the bias of crowds and the deeper biases that are embedded in society.”
The study concludes that racism in county-level data seemed to predict health outcomes related to coronavirus. The recommended solution suggests that health care providers create training for workers to recognize implicit biases. This would be followed by state, municipal and county executives following suit to improve health care access for everyone they serve.