Peace on Earth? A Persistent Pandemic Hides in Plain Sight

Love and PeaceWatching the pandemic of COVID-19 play out this year has given us an education in so many things. Will it prompt us to wrap our heads around a persistent pandemic of racism? Or shall we fall back on tired rhetoric? Racism has profound effects on health and lifespan for people of color. The facts are plain. Racial discrimination explains much about the diseases like diabetes that racial and ethnic minorities endure more often and more severely than the rest of us. We have a persistent pandemic of racism in plain sight before us.

If we want peace on Earth, as this season promises, we will step up to this challenge.

Disparate Chronic Diseases

Chronic diseases are more likely to go untreated or poorly treated in Black, Hispanic, and Native American populations. Thus, with poor health as a baseline, COVID-19 has come with devastating effects. Native American, Hispanic, and Black persons are almost three times more likely to die from COVID.

A new CDC analysis explains that racism is a key driver:

Unfortunately, discrimination, which includes racism, exists in systems meant to protect well-being or health. Discrimination can lead to chronic and toxic stress and shapes social and economic factors that put some people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of COVID-19. There is increasing recognition that addressing the underlying inequities in social determinants of health is key to improving health and reducing health disparities.

Indeed, this is why the American Medical Association has declared that racism is a threat to public health.


These facts describe an unpleasant reality. So we look for reasons to explain the disparities. For example, much is written about the “mistrust” that minority communities feel toward health systems. It is more comfortable to talk about how those people don’t trust healthcare providers. If the problem is mistrust, then the solution is to fix the way Black and Brown people feel about the system.

But in fact, mistrust is not the real problem. The real problem is a lifetime of experiencing racism in healthcare, in employment, and in daily interactions. Mistrust is a direct result. Disparities in health are not due to the behaviors and beliefs of racial and ethnic minorities. They are the result of health systems that have evolved for the entire history of our country to deliver first-class healthcare to White and privileged people, while offering inferior care to people of color.

So mistrust is a sensible response to experiences with racist systems for delivering healthcare.

Turning Away

When we find other reasons for the unpleasant truth of racism, we are turning away from our brothers and sisters – our neighbors. Jesus, whose birth Christians celebrate tomorrow, called his followers not to do this (Matthew 25, verse 45, The Message):

“I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things [acts of caring] to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me – you failed to do it to me.”

In this way, COVID-19 presents us with a difficult challenge. For many of us, it is an abstract threat. If we are working from home, secure in our jobs, our wealth, and our health, then we can say, “I feel blessed. Really, I have not felt much impact.” But what about our neighbors who cannot work from home and feel the risk of COVID exposure every day? While the economy has recovered for wealthy White Americans, for too many Black and Brown Americans it is still in a deep recession. People of color have been laid off more and hired back less since COVID hit the economy. Can we turn away from this reality and call ourselves faithful to our values?

The truth is that perhaps as much as COVID, racism plagues our nation. If we truly want peace on Earth, we will commit ourselves to cure this persistent pandemic.

Love and Peace, painting by David Burliuk / WikiArt

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December 24, 2020

2 Responses to “Peace on Earth? A Persistent Pandemic Hides in Plain Sight”

  1. December 24, 2020 at 8:17 am, Mary-Jo said:

    The message of Jesus is as radical now as it was in his time. People with privilege like people with privilege and protect one another, even if it means killing babies to protect those in power (massacre of the innocents by Herod after the birth of Jesus), building walls to keep out immigrants, denying best care and opportunities for ‘others’. There seems to be a certain superiority comfort and safety felt in privileged ‘sameness’ of looks, lifestyles, careers, wealth that makes people think they are entitled — ‘the chosen ones’. Ironically, Jesus came into the world to save ALL people. Paul writes that, ‘in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor male and female’ (Galatians 3:28).

  2. December 24, 2020 at 9:39 am, Allen Browne said:

    Developing vaccines is easy.
    Better treatment for COVID-19 is easy.

    Eliminating racism, stigma, and bias is not easy.

    Peace – we have much to do.