Many have discussed how the corona virus does not affect everyone equally. Socioeconomic differences play a big role in how different groups are being affected. One might live in a big house and have a safe home-situation, while someone else doesn’t have the space to work undisturbed, is stuck in an unsafe home-situation or doesn’t even have a place to call home. Not all jobs can be done from home, mail deliverers, shopkeepers and garbage collectors are more exposed to potential carriers of the virus.
Though statistics on ethnic differences in light of the corona virus in the Netherlands are still absent, it has become clear that black Americans are being hit harder by the virus than white Americans. Socioeconomic differences are one of the explanations. A high percentage of the people who live in poverty in the US are black. People who live in poverty often deal with more health problems because stress and a simple lack of money make it difficult and at times even impossible to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Researchers have shown that constant money worries take up so much space in your brain, that you start making more mistakes and are no longer capable to make rational decisions. Due to being consumed with solving short term problems - Where will I get dinner? How will we make it to the end of the week? - people’s long term perspective disappears, there simply isn’t any space left. This causes different long term problems to arise, such as health problems and a weakened immune system. This has become more visible during the current crisis.
An article in the Dutch newspaper the NRC on the 14th of April discussed racial inequalities in the corona statistics. Next to mentioning socioeconomic explanations, they also gave another explanation: weathering. Weathering is a concept coined by Arline Geronimus, an academic in the field of public health, which refers to the effects of (institutional) racism on physical health. Weathering is usually used to describe the effects of weather and time on different materials. Arline saw a similar process in people of colour who live in inherently racist societies. Constantly being exposed to racism and discrimination in all its forms causes chronic stress and one way or another this also influences a person’s physical health, making people of colour and people of other minority groups, even when they are financially well off, are more susceptible to diseases, amongst which the corona virus.
In the Dutch context, little seems to have been written on the effects of racism on physical health. We expect, however, that just like in the US, people in the Netherlands who are being exposed to racism and discrimination are also disproportionately dealing with health problems that cannot only be explained by socioeconomic inequalities. It is important to pay extra attention to the different high risk groups for the duration of this crisis, but it is at least as important to ensure that after this crisis structural changes are made to tackle these kinds of inequalities.