17 April 2020
In a recent press conference on April 7, Governor John Bel Edwards shared the unsettling data that roughly 70% of those who have died due to the coronavirus in Louisiana were African American, despite only making up 32% of the state’s population. This statistic raises questions, concerns, and unveils the inequities that have long existed and disproportionately impacted Black communities in our state and country. COVID-19 death statistics from the Department of Health were also released to provide further context, revealing that underlying conditions (hypertension leading at 66.4%) played a detrimental role in coronavirus complications.¹
It is imperative that we address these findings beyond the surface level and examine the inequities that not only relate to our health care system, but societal factors across the board: poverty, jobs, neighborhood & environment, transportation, education, and more. These racial disparities have existed simultaneously with victim-blaming in the face of disaster, such as the vilifying of New Orleans hosting Mardi Gras 2020, despite no known threat of the virus in the city at the time. This is reminiscent of post-Katrina narratives that placed fault, rather than empathy and solutions, when our community was most vulnerable.
While this virus may not discriminate, policies and institutions certainly do.
- Environmental racism is prevalent in our state -- Black communities from “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana’s river-parishes to New Orleans’ Gordon Plaza neighborhood face health conditions caused or worsened by toxic air and land.
- As of April 7, “Cancer Alley” was reported as having some of the highest coronavirus death rates in the country.
- In New Orleans, many Black communities are located in “food deserts,” which limit access to healthy, affordable foods and stores.
- In 2018, Louisiana ranked as the #2 state with the highest poverty rate in the nation, with New Orleans ranking as the #1 city.
- In 2017, nearly 75% of those living below the poverty line in New Orleans were African American.
- In the local economy, 2018 statistics reveal that those with the highest earnings in common jobs in New Orleans were white.
- The above statistics emphasize the importance of releasing demographic information during health crises such as COVID-19. This allows us to fully dissect pre-existing inequities and their harmful impacts on our communities.
We ask that you join us in our journey towards better understanding history, policies, and institutions, the inequities within them, and how they disproportionately affect African Americans in our region. We thank our incredible entrepreneurs for their continued work of tackling social and environmental disparities through areas of community economic development, education, food, health, and water.
The Propeller Team
About Propeller: Propeller is a 501c3 nonprofit that grows and supports entrepreneurs to tackle social and environmental disparities. Our vision is an inclusive and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Orleans that responds to community needs and creates the conditions for an equitable future.
Wearing a mask won’t protect us from our history, The Washington Post
The Racial Time Bomb in the COVID-19 Crisis, The NY Times
Seven Disturbing Facts about COVID-19 in Louisiana, Counter Punch
Ebenezer Baptist, Slate
The Coronavirus’s Unique Threat to the South, The Atlantic