RACISM IS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS

The coronavirus has impacted every one of us. COVID-19 does not discriminate between races as it affects everyone. However, it is affecting some races more than others. As of right now, the Navajo Nation has the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rate in the USA, surpassing New York which had been thought of as the epicenter of the pandemic. The Navajo Nation is the largest Native American tribe in the U.S. Its infection rate is 3.3% as the nation has a population of 173,667 people and has had 5,533 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 248 deaths. Its infection rate surpasses New York’s by roughly 1.0%.

American indigenous family aware of the dangers of the Covid19 pandemic stands 6 feet apart from one another

Coronavirus impacts minority groups differently than peoples in urban/major cities across America. These individuals are often of a lower income bracket and are frequently working in jobs that are deemed essential. Thus, they face a higher risk of infection than others. Also, Tyrone Whitehorse, a member of the DinĂ© Nation from Lechee, Arizona, wrote that “it’s hard to follow public health guidelines when the reservation is facing “systemic disparities,” like limited access to healthcare, minimal running water, and a lack of protective supplies. Nearly 1/3 of families on the reservation don’t have access to running water or electricity, let alone a clinic or a hospital nearby. In addition, on the Navajo reservation, there are only 13 grocery stores to serve an area the size of West Virginia. Therefore, when people were rushing to grocery stores across the nation, it caused members of the Navajo reservation to hit the dirt roads and drive an hour or more to the nearest grocery store. However, when they got there, much of the supplies they needed were gone already. Also, the small number of grocery stores result in food scarcity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that “current data suggests a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.” Additionally, COVID-19 death rates for Black and Hispanic/Latino individuals “were substantially higher than that of white or Asian person” for cities across the country noted the CDC.

As you may know, when European settlers came to America, they brought diseases that left Native Americans ravaged and afraid of what can happen when there is no immunity in a population against foreign infections. With the rise of COVID-19, anxiety and fear threatened the people once again. Throughout the Navajo reservation, signs can be seen reading “Please stay away, we are trying to keep grandma safe” on homes. In Native American culture, stories and history are told orally, meaning that they typically don’t write out the stories, instead passing them down by speaking. The elders, who are knowledge keepers, culture bearers, storytellers, matriarchs, leaders, language teachers, are being disproportionally affected by the virus. When an elder dies, it is as if a library is burned down.

Please help the Navajo Nation by donating to any of the organizations listed below

To learn more, check out this action doc by Changing Womxn Collective: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IG9uNbKF_xxdNWXB667YxBuRbnnRUDOnf6PcPGGECeI/edit

Originally published June 9