People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster. – James Baldwin

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has rattled our nation in great proportions. While the crisis has brought to light many faults in national, state and local infrastructures, the ever-present truth threaded throughout the unfolding narrative is that pervasive health and economic inequities are resulting in dramatically disproportionate impacts. Without these inequities being properly addressed through aggressive policy change, our nation will continue to fail the very people who make our nation whole. The virus does not discriminate, but some populations are being especially hard hit and/or not being thought of at all. Populations such as people with substance use disorders, people with complex needs, people who identify as LGBTQ+, and people of color. If you are in tune with any form of media, it has been impossible to deny the devastating effect the pandemic is having on Black and brown people across the country. Early data shows that Black Americans face alarming rates of infection and death in states throughout the country.

This stark fact has increasingly been called out in recent weeks, but is hitting me personally as a Black mother of three children, one of whom is immunocompromised due to severe asthma. Additionally, I eagerly await meeting the children of my Black friends who are preparing to give birth during a time when mothers are being denied access to having their advocates (family members, doulas, midwives, etc.) by their sides throughout the birthing process. Black maternal health and the nation’s response to COVID-19 will be discussed during Black Maternal Health Week, April 11– April 17. Thankfully, advocates such as Dr. Joia Crear-Perry and others are sharing ways that Black mothers can thrive in the face of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has unveiled the pervasive nature of racial and ethnic inequities in our society. These times are calling for all advocates addressing health, housing, social supports, economic security and various other social determinants of health to identify opportunities for collaboration, as well as be more effective in supporting each other’s collective policy asks. We must work to continue to call out the long-term impact of structural racism, uplift and share practices that will lead to systemic change, and make long-standing policy recommendations that will address root problems. 

Long-term Impact of Structural Racism

We are beginning to see reports and issue briefs naming the fact that communities of color are at higher risk for health and economic challenges due to COVID-19. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s recent brief goes into great detail outlining the several factors that place people of color, especially Black people, at greater risk. However, these reports neglect to attribute these contributing factors to systemically racist and discriminatory policies, practices and behaviors – policies and practices that we have seen play out recently in COVID-19 testing eligibility requirements, testing locations primarily placed outside of communities where Black and brown people dwell, and exposure to the virus in the workplace with limited personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to frontline essential staff, many of whom are people of color. The President of Demos puts it best in stating, “this is not just a pandemic crisis; it is a crisis rooted in our very system of racial capitalism and in the oligarchic inequities of American politics.”

Uplifting and Implementing Strong Equity-Focused Resources/Responses to COVID-19

Grantmakers have made swift changes in the face of COVID-19, relaxing their reporting and deadline/timeline structures, providing millions of dollars in short-term relief to organizations across the country and making a number of other admirable interventions in this desperate time of need. Grantmakers are also starting to put more thought behind how to use a racial justice lens to transform the future.

Community Catalyst has created a COVID-19 advocacy resources and tools webpage capturing federal advocacy resources, policy analysis, state advocacy resources, health justice infographics, health equity tools, statements against racism and Xenophobia toward Asian communities and much more. We are adding information to this site daily. Therefore, as you build out your own resources or come across others that you believe would be helpful to add to this site, please send them to

Policy Recommendations and Messaging

Federal, state and local policymakers must do more for those who are being hardest hit to give everyone a fair shot at coming through this crisis healthy and whole. Advocates across the country are demanding the collection and transparency of race, ethnicity and language data. The Associated Press has conducted one of the first attempts to examine the racial disparities of COVID-19 cases and deaths nationwide. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not publicly reported racial and ethnic data for COVID-19 tests performed across the country, and only a dozen or so states are releasing such data. Letters to the governor, op-eds, Letters to the Editor of newspapers, twitter chats and legislative town halls are driving the call for release of this crucial information.   

Community Catalyst has equity messaging paired with policy recommendations for advocates to use at the state and federal level. We will also, along with other state and national organizations, submit a list of health equity related policy recommendations to Congress for consideration in the fourth economic stimulus bill that is now being formulated.  

Due to the nearly insurmountable need, we may find ourselves in a place of wanting to advocate for everything, but this is when the mechanism of a coalition shines. We must all do what we do best and link to the rest. All roads, be they economic, housing, education, food security, etc. lead back to health. As a nation we must continue physical distancing, while remaining virtually social. As difficult as it may be, we must allow our eyes to remain open to the inequities of our various systems and never tire from the work of dismantling it all.