Black Americans are dying at a higher rate from COVID-19 than whites. “The Kids Are Alright” podcast looks at the disparities in mortality.

“COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, but it is infecting a society that does.”

So states Sage Silberman, a second-year student at Chadwick School in California, in Episode Three of this season’s podcast The Kids Are Alright.

Silberman, a News Decoder Student Ambassador, examines how COVID-19 is hitting American Blacks disporportionately because of a lack of quality healthcare and socio-economic disparities.

Black Americans have experienced the highest COVID-19 mortality rates across the United States — more than twice as high as the rate for whites and Asians, according to APM Research Lab.

Shikarah Pinkney, a 34-year-old COVID-19 survivor from Nashville, Tennessee, shares her experience. Pinkney believes she contracted the disease while on a family trip to Wonder Works. The entertainment center was crowded, and many people were not wearing masks. Pinkney admits she let her guard down — a mistake she paid dearly for.

“There’s a lot of disparities and a lot of prejudice and poor treatment built into our healthcare system that leaves African Americans with the short end of the stick,” says News Decoder Correspondent Maggie Fox, a senior editor at CNN. “That’s gonna be multiplied times a thousand in something like a pandemic.”

Relatively more Black Americans are dying from COVID-19.

While racism can’t be blamed for Blacks catching the virus, relatively more African Americans are dying from the disease, a disparity that experts attribute in large part to differences in treatment between races in the United States.

“I noticed that Black people were more likely turned away for testing of COVID,” Pinkney says. “Some of us aren’t taken seriously, or we’re believed to have a higher pain tolerance. But, yeah, we’re not taken seriously in the healthcare system, which is why there are so many of us dying from this disease.”

Shonni Rolle, an experienced nurse working in a COVID-19 intensive care unit, says when she was  first given information indicating that the virus mainly affected Black Americans, she didn’t understand how or why.

“But now, working with more of an African American population here in Florida, I sort of realized there were predisposing factors,” she says, referring in part to inferior quality health services offered to many Blacks and a lack of information and communication.

Many underprivileged cannot work from home.

Alyssa Nicholles is the daughter of a New York City policeman who died from COVID-19. She holds the city’s police department responsible for his death and notes that many underprivileged citizens cannot work from home.

“I do blame the department, because people were still coming in sick,” she said. “They weren’t sending them home. They weren’t giving them the proper PPE (personal protection equipment), and my Dad told the department. Before my dad passed away, it was 11 people that died from it, just in his department.”

Chadwick School is one of 19 News Decoder partner schools in 14 countries. For more work by students on News Decoder, click here.

The Kids Are Alright is produced with News Decoder partner Earyel Bowleg edited this episode.

Three questions to consider:

  1. What is a “mortality rate”?
  2. Why are Blacks dying at a higher rate than whites in the United States?
  3. What can be done so that Blacks do not have a higher mortality rate?
Tendayi Chirawu is News Decoder’s Communications and School Engagement Manager. A citizen of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, she has a master's degree in Global Communication & Civil Society from the American University of Paris. She joined News Decoder in July and has experience working for non-profit and for-profit organizations in Africa, Asia and Europe. Chirawu is a published author and has written for international news publications.
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