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IU expert weighs in on COVID-19's impact on the black community

Breanca Merrit.JPG
Posted at 11:28 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 23:28:30-04

INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time, the state has analyzed the racial make-up of the COVID-19 numbers in Indiana.

As states collect more data, it's evident the novel coronavirus is disproportionately impacting African-Americans and that's happening here in Indiana.

From the data, African-Americans make up nearly 10 percent of the state population but account for nearly 20 percent of all COVID-19 cases and deaths, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

"These are things that are a function of policies and practices that have taken place over the course of decades that have manifested themselves in other arenas such as income and health broadly," Dr. Breanca Merrit, of the IU Public Policy Institute, said. "Now, we're seeing that in COVID as well."

Whether its employment opportunities or where a person can live, Merrit said those old policies still have an impact today. An example, redlining, which started in the 1930s and was officially outlawed in 1968, made getting home loans impossible for black folks, creating communities that are predominantly black to this day.

"We're more likely to go to shop at the same stores, go to the same churches, have the same social circle as people who might be of a different socioeconomic status," Merrit said.

Merrit said every facet of life for many African-Americans, from education, work opportunities and healthcare, have been directly impacted by historically discriminatory practices.

So, what's the fix?

"By specifically just taking the first step in saying this is an issue that impacts the black community, highlight the fact that the community needs more attention and resources to address some of these systemic problems," Merrit said.