Is Fauci right pandemic exposed ‘undeniable effects of racism’?


Fact Box

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci is the leading immunologist for the White House, and has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. 
  • As of Saturday, May 22, 2021, there have been 33.8 million coronavirus cases in the United States, with over 603 thousand reported deaths. 
  • There are currently three COVID vaccines: Pfizer - BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Both Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines and require two doses, while Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector vaccine in one dose. 
  • During a graduation ceremony for Emory University on May 16, 2021, Dr. Fauci said, “Covid-19 has shown a bright light on our own society’s failings. Almost all [comorbidities] relate to the social determinants of health dating back to disadvantageous conditions that some people of color find themselves in from birth regarding the availability of an adequate diet, access to health care and the undeniable effects of racism in our society.” 
  • According to Mayo Clinic via M.D. William F. Marshall III, research shows that people of color are more affected by coronavirus. Hospitalization rates of Black, Hispanic or Latino people were “4.7 times” the rate of White people. They are commonly known to have underlying health issues, like Type 2 Diabetes, which increases the risk of COVID-19.

Kevin (Yes) 

As Fauci said in his comments at an Emory University graduation ceremony, 'society's failings' have caused a system of 'social determinants of health,' leading to 'disadvantageous conditions that some people of color find themselves in from birth.' The COVID Tracking Project's data shows that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color and that, 'Nationwide, Black people have died at 1.4 times the rate of white people.' This is far from the only source showing such data. A recent article in The Harvard Gazette says that 'researchers at Harvard and elsewhere' have found that 'the disparity is a result of interrelated circumstances' in the living environments of the 'economically disadvantaged and minority populations,' which is a symptom of systemic racism.

It is important to understand that the term 'racism' in this context is not referring simply to the attitudes or actions of individuals, although those can certainly play a role. Systemic racism is a sociological concept that was developed as a 'way of explaining, within the social sciences and humanities, the significance of race and racism both historically and in today's world.' As described by Dr. Nicki Lisa Cole on ThoughtCo., 'it is premised on the research-supported claim' that racism has historically been 'embedded in all social institutions, structures, and social relations within our society.' The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated social and economic issues everywhere, and there is no denying the data. Likewise, it is hard to ignore the racial disparities present in our system, and the question of racism here is just a matter of recognizing that.

Bill (No) 

Dr. Fauci is wrong to suggest racism has anything to do with COVID; viruses don't choose their hosts based on the color of their skin. Fauci addressed Emory University graduates while receiving the President's Medal when he unironically denounced 'the destruction of division.' Sadly, Fauci squandered an opportunity to quell fears about COVID's current threat level (that is, that it's very low—COVID-related hospitalizations have declined by more than 76% since January 21st). Instead, he shamefully poisoned the minds of the graduates and their families with baseless fears of a pernicious, racist virus.

Fauci knows that a person's vulnerability to COVID is not race-based; it's health-based. He cited specific conditions (such as comorbidities) to bolster his case that minorities have been disproportionately affected by COVID—obesity, diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung disease, etc. He conveniently failed to point out that all of these conditions are linked to poor nutritional and lifestyle choices, such as the high intake of low-quality, fried, processed foods, high in sugar, combined with alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and lack of exercise. 

Rather than foment racial unrest, Fauci should have focused on the available outcome-based COVID data, which shows the only demographic relevant in considering COVID vulnerability is age-based (the elderly are far more likely to be adversely affected by COVID). It's irresponsible of Fauci, as the de facto public health spokesperson for the national response to COVID, to veer off into social commentary as a means of pandering to prevailing media narratives about systemic racism, etc., when it has absolutely no connection to COVID. Instead, he should have told his audience that COVID was a wake-up call to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

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