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New resource on COVID-19 for Kent County and what it reveals: Structural Racism and White Supremacy

May 3, 2020

On Friday, the Kent County Health Department began tracking cases of COVID-19 for the Kent county, with the number of deaths, the racial breakdown of cases, age demographics, by gender and zip code. 

MLive reported on the new COVID-19 resources on Friday, but only included information on COVID-19 cases by zip code. This limited reporting is not only unfortunate, it is a weak form of journalism that doesn’t ask larger and more urgent questions about which populations appear to be more at risk.

Looking at the racial breakdown of COVID-19 cases is instructive for Kent County. According to the 2010 Census data, the percentage of African Americans living in Kent County was 10.5 %, compared to 82.3% White. However, in looking at the racial breakdown of COVID-19 cases, 22.1% of White people have contracted COVID-19, compared to 18.6% of African Americans. While the number of White people living in Kent County is roughly 8 times greater than African Americans, they are nearly equal in contracting COVID-19. This means that African Americans are between 7 or 8 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than White people are.

This data on COVID-19 for Kent County, based on race is a clear indication of structural racism and White Supremacy. In addition, the zip codes that have the highest number of cases are 49503, with 294 reported cases, and 49507, with 239 cases. The 49503 zip code has the highest percentage of African Americans than any other zip code in Kent County and 49507 is one of the highest for African Americans.

In Detroit, the structural racism in COVID-19 cases is even more disturbing, as Mark Fancher writes in Black Black Agenda Report, and the same dynamic is taking place in New York, according to the Center for Public Integrity

None of this data, from around the US or right here in Kent County should be surprising, unless you are white and are in denial about the systemic function of White Supremacy. The data should be disturbing and should cause outrage over the fact that proportionately more African Americans in this community will die than White people. As was the case before COVID-19, we have to dismantle the system of White Supremacy in the Grand Rapids area.

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