Gloria J. Browne-Marshall:
This is “Law of the Land.” It was known as early as March, that there was a disproportionate impact, disparities, around race. We want to delve into what those disparities may be and what might have caused them. We know that people of color are on the front lines in our service industry. David Mark Greaves and Bernice Elizabeth Green, editors of Our Time Press will discuss disproportionate effect of the virus on communities of color.
David Mark Greaves: We have forward facing jobs. You know the street sweeper, the storeroom stocker, the cashier, we’re really at the front line here. We can’t work from home. So, another aspect of it, I just saw yesterday morning as I was walking past one of those bottle redemptions machines. There were Black folks lined up, crowded around it. No PPE (personal protective equipment), no social distancing, and you can just imagine homeless populations. So, we found it to be a combination of the historic chronic problem because of the society, the racist system, put us in a position where we are most likely to be affected.
Browne-Marshall: Let’s delve into these pre-existing conditions and historical nature here. African Americans may have disproportionate levels of diabetes and asthma, poor conditions and public housing. It’s very difficult for anyone to get a test, and then you think about communities of color.
Greaves: Some folks don’t have the opportunity to wash their hands, who can’t go buy a mask.
Browne-Marshall: Funeral homes have been overrun with bodies. People are being buried in mass graves in Brooklyn.
Greaves: There are more trucks lined up, several of them filled with bodies coming out of hospitals and nursing homes.
Bernice Elizabeth Green: We’re human beings, and they’re dying nameless. We have a story of a woman who woke up, her husband’s dead. The ambulance took him out of her apartment. She doesn’t know where he is.
Browne-Marshall: Thank you, David and Bernice. Pre-existing conditions like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, emphysema, tuberculosis, along with over-crowded housing, and limited access to medical care, have made a perfect storm for the death rate that is disproportionately high for Latinos and African Americans. Let’s ask Professor Alan Wernick a recognized authority on citizenship and immigration law.
Allan Wernick: The undocumented are working in jobs where they interact with the public, selling things on the street, work in restaurants. They’re paying taxes, but they cannot collect unemployment.
Browne-Marshall: Workers in post offices are people of color, for the most part. They’re on the front lines here. At the same time, other countries have closed their borders, leaving people stranded.
Wernick: People came here to visit or to work or to study. Their status is expiring. They can’t get out. I mean they’re locked in. Millions of people.
Browne-Marshall: This is affecting the undocumented people who may be here alone, and they have no one to speak up for them, with no family here.
Wernick: For any crisis or any economic downturn or any health situation, look at how the most oppressed people, Latinos, Blacks and poor are impacted by the problem. It’s always going to be even worse for the immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants. I know you have listeners throughout the nation. They can call CUNY Citizenship Now! and get help. Contact: 646-664-9400. https://www1.cuny.edu/sites/citizenship-now/
Browne-Marshall: Thank you so much, Professor Alan Wernick.
[Update: Days later, the Trump Administration placed further restrictions on immigration, limiting air travel and cruise ships into the United States. Borders with Canada and Mexico are closed.]
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is a writer, legal correspondent, playwright, author of “The Voting Rights War,” Professor of constitutional law at John Jay College (CUNY), and host of “Law of the Land with Gloria J. Browne-Marshall” on WBAI 99.5FM, WBAI.org. She is working on her debut novel of historical fiction. Follow @gbrownemarshall. Listen to ‘Law of the Land’ podcasts. Andres Estevez assisted in adapting this interview into an article.