Emory Law Journal


During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and state governments have disregarded racial and ethnic minorities’ unequal access to employment and health care, which has resulted in racial inequities in infections and deaths. In addition, they have enacted laws that further exacerbate these inequities. Consequently, many racial and ethnic minorities are employed in low-wage essential jobs that lack paid sick leave and health insurance. This lack of benefits causes them to go to work even when they are sick and prevents them from receiving appropriate medical treatment. As a result, racial and ethnic minorities have disproportionately been infected and died from COVID-19. Although these actions seem race “neutral,” they exemplify systemic racism, wherein racial and ethnic minorities are deemed inferior to white people, and thus do not receive the same access to resources, such as employment and health care. This Essay illustrates how systemic racism has resulted in racial inequities in COVID-19 infections and deaths through case studies in employment and health care. Using the health justice framework, it concludes with suggestions to eradicate systemic racism, redress harm, and engage communities in implementing an equitable pandemic response.

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