“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”
Charles R. Swubdoll
S.E. Williams | Executive Editor
When California Governor Gavin Newsom released his Safe Schools for All plan recently, he provided backup information about studies in support of a strategy for in-person learning in the spring.
As the California Department of Public Health noted, “[The studies were] chosen for their rigor, rather than because they support a specific position regarding whether or not it is safe to be open.”
The background rationale discusses why children get COVID-19 less frequently and experience a less severe form of the disease; notes how children with COVID-19 most often get it from someone in their household; highlights transmission among or from students is uncommon; and stresses low risk of transmission in elementary schools.
The CDPH acknowledged its summary was not comprehensive but focused instead on the best evidence it had to inform Californians regarding the safety of in-person instruction for students in grades 6 and below, but it left me wondering whether it considered a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released in September that found a majority of kids in the United States dying of COVID-19 are Black, Hispanic, or Indigenous?
Certainly, the CDC report aligned with what the CDPH stated about very few children who became sick with the coronavirus, die. During the study period this proved true—at (.03%), the deaths averaged less than one percent. However, very few of the children counted among the dead were White.
Certainly if one of those counted among the lost was your child, the percentage would be meaningless. Yet, the CDC went further and revealed a staggering racial disparity regarding children and COVID-19. Among the more than 390,000 coronavirus cases and 121 deaths among those under the age of 21 between February 12 and July 31, fully 78% were children of color.
Although the Kids Count Data Center reports 50 % of children in this country are White, White children represent only 14% of childhood COVID-19 deaths. Founder of Advancing Health Equity, Dr. Uché, Blackstock, called the data horrifying but not surprising and stressed to the publication Insider, “Where you see marginalization and disadvantage, you’re going to find coronavirus.”
Studies have shown correlations between segregated neighborhoods created from a history of relining policies, and higher rates of pre-existing conditions that make COVID-19 harder to fight.
Most children who have died from the virus to date according to the CDC, suffered from at least one underlying health condition. The two most common were chronic lung issues (like asthma, for example) and obesity—conditions associated with living in communities historically disadvantaged and marginalized.
The CDC has offered the usual “blame the victim” explanation for why children of color are dying from the virus in greater numbers than White children, noting it is because they live in households with adults who are more likely to be essential workers.
For minority parents the decision of whether to return their children to classroom environments is complex and nuanced particularly when placed in the context of education equity in general and most specifically regarding COVID-19. Though the risks may be limited particularly for White children, most children of color, like their parents, are at higher risk for coronavirus illness and death.
Looking to the spring, parents of color should continue monitoring COVID-19 data and its potential impact on children of color in the coming months.
If history has taught dark people anything, it is that the protection of Black children has never been a priority of the United States of America. Do not rely on the governor, the president, or any other politician to guide your actions regarding your children when it comes to education during this out-of-control pandemic—investigate and decide for yourself.
We all look forward to the day this nation returns to a new normal. On that day we can only hope our children, when recalling their memories of the age of COVID-19 to their own children, will speak with reverence of the hard decisions their parent(s) made to keep them safe.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.
S.E. Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.