Are Northam’s COVID-19 Policies Racist? By the Left’s Logic, Yes

by James A. Bacon

Now that Governor Ralph Northam has declared his intention to take down the Lee Statue on Richmond’s Monument Avenue in the cause of racial equity and justice, perhaps he could take another step — one that would actually affect the lives of African-Americans in a tangible way. He could accelerate the rollback of job-killing COVID-19 emergency measures that have disproportionately impacted Virginia blacks.

In the logic of the progressive movement, which Northam has adopted in atonement of his blackface escapade decades ago, disparities in outcomes constitute proof of racism. If a disparity exists, that’s racist, end of story. No need to probe any deeper. Perhaps it is time that we apply that logic to the Governor’s COVID-19 policies.

In February, just before the COVID-19 epidemic hit, unemployment in the Old Dominion stood at 2.6%, effectively full employment. Nationally, black unemployment was a near-record low of 6.6% in the 1st Quarter of 2020 compared to 3.6% for whites. Those rates typically run one percentage point lower in the Old Dominion.

Google “black unemployment rates” and you will find dozens of stories making the point that the COVID-19 epidemic has hit blacks harder than other racial/ethnic groups. Nationally, unemployment for blacks hit 16.8% in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while it reached only 12.4% for whites. The gap in white/black unemployment increased from 3.0% before the epidemic to 4.4% during the epidemic. Due to reporting delays, we don’t have the same numbers broken down by state, but there is no reason to think that Virginia is much different.

Let’s be clear about one thing. The COVID-19 virus did not wreck the economy and put black people out of work. The policy response to the virus wrecked the economy and put black people out of work. Here in Virginia, the emergency executive orders issued by Governor Ralph S. Northam devastated the occupational sectors — healthcare, hospitality, restaurants, and retail — where African-Americans are more likely to be employed.

Nationally, African-Americans comprised 12.3% of the workforce in 2019, according to the BLS. They comprised 17.7% of all workers in the healthcare sector, 13.1% in the leisure and hospitality sector (which includes hotels, recreation and restaurants), and an astounding 29% in “barber shops.” Again, there is no reason to believe that Virginia departs from the national average.

The most indefensible of Northam’s actions was the prolonged ban on elective medical procedures. As the number of procedures shrank, Virginia hospitals and surgery centers laid off literally tens of thousands of employees. While the ban might have been justifiable when there were widespread concerns that hospitals would be overrun by COVID-19 patients, it was clear long before Northam lifted the ban (just read back posts of Bacon’s Rebellion) that Virginia’s hospital industry was not facing Armageddon and that the ban served no useful purpose. While a final, definitive conclusion must await the reporting of detailed jobless numbers, we can preliminarily conclude, using the Left’s disparities-equal-racism logic, that Northam’s ban on elective procedures disproportionately punished black employees and was, therefore, racist.

A similar argument can be made that Northam’s shutdown of large gatherings (which impacted hotels, meeting venues, and recreational events) and his orders closing restaurants and personal care establishments were unnecessarily harsh, prolonged and racist.

Meanwhile, the Left has been lamenting the disproportionate impact of the virus on the health of African-Americans, who are more likely to experience co-existing conditions such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease which make the virus more deadly. (The poor health of many African-Americans, and poor Americans of all races/ethnicities, is a legitimate matter of concern, but not directly germane to this discussion.)

Here in Virginia, blacks are more likely to have died from the disease than whites and other races. However, we know that the elderly (of whatever race) are even more likely to die from the virus. We also know that the elderly in nursing homes are especially vulnerable. Indeed, by the latest count 56.5% of all COVID-19 deaths in Virginia originated in long-term care settings.

We don’t know — because the Virginia Department of Health doesn’t report the numbers — the racial/ethnic breakdown of nursing home deaths. But there are ample grounds to believe that nursing home deaths consist disproportionately of black residents. For example, te vast majority of the nearly 50 deaths at the infamous Canterbury Rehabilitation long-term care facility in Henrico County were African-Americans.

Poor African-Americans rely upon Medicaid to provide for their long-term care. Medicaid is administered by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the facilities are inspected by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). If the resources and standards of care are deficient, the state is culpable to some degree. Northam did appoint a nursing-home task force in April, but it has been notably ineffective. Virginia has one of the highest percentages of nursing home deaths of any state in the country. There has been little indication in his public statements that, after unloading the job to the task force, Northam has paid much attention to the problem.

Applying Northam’s logic to Northam, his COVID-19 policies have disproportionately put African-Americans out of work and, arguably, allowed African-Americans to die disproportionately in state-regulated nursing homes. By the standards of the Left, that’s racist. But no one, absolutely no one, has publicly made this case. You can draw your own conclusions as to why.

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12 responses to “Are Northam’s COVID-19 Policies Racist? By the Left’s Logic, Yes”

  1. TBill Avatar

    Don’t get me started on the politics of the situation(s).

    Re: Nursing Homes – We are just now starting to see some partial NoVA data (finally) and it seems to indicate many of the nursing home COVID cases were transferred there from the hospitals. So I do not know if it is accurate to say 56.5% of cases originated in long term care. Rather, that’s where they ended up?

    NoVA seemed to show non-hispanic blacks were not disproportionately impacted on COVID cases (not sure about deaths). Hispanic community however was extremely impacted.

  2. djrippert Avatar

    Like 95% of politicians Northam’s only goal in life is to remain in power. He can’t do that in Virginia by running for re-election. So how does he fulfill the politician’s creed of staying in power no matter what? Take on Kaine or Warner in a Democratic primary? Try to unseat Elaine Luria? Those are dead ends. Northam needs to bide his time. Wait to see what happens in the presidential election this fall. Vacancies may occur. Kaine or Warner could be cabinet members in a Biden Administration. Or maybe even King Ralph himself. I saw Ken Cuccinelli on TV the other night using his federal position in the Trump Administration to reestablish himself in the conservative political universe. A Biden win in the Fall of 2020 could set the stage for a blowback state election in 2021. Blackface Herring or multi-rape-alligations Fairfax might make for a vulnerable Democratic field. Cuccinelli is biding his time wisely. So is Northam.

    So, how does King Ralph properly bide his time? Well, he’s not an elite in the liberal – socialist party. He is way too much of a bumbler for that. He isn’t a shot caller and he won’t be calling any shots. However, he is a budding useful idiot. He might be able to further establish his bona fides as a useful idiot for the elites / shot callers by carefully toeing the line the elites want toed. The liberal elite want to duck accountability for things like the police force in cities like Minneapolis where they have mismanaged things for the last 50+ years. That requires the “institutional racism” defense. Budding useful idiots like Northam can help with that by finding examples of “institutional racism” everywhere. The arrogant white leadership in Richmond threw him an absolute softball by failing to address those statues in a meaningful way. Now King Ralph is burnishing his useful idiot resume by taking them down. You see – “institutional racism” everywhere!

    The liberal elite also want more of the nation’s private property passing through their greasy fingers for redistribution. Needless to say a fair amount of that money will stick to their fingers. Re-igniting the economy to the pre-COVID levels of historically high black employment helps neither the “institutional racism” defense nor the “sticky fingered wealth transfer” planks of the modern Democratic Party.

    From Fidel Castro’s net worth of $900m to the Clinton Foundation to a poor community organizer buying one fabulously expensive mansion after another … the liberal – socialist elite know how to profit from their “service to the people”. All they need is a huge number of sheep willing to be fleeced and a bureaucratic layer of useful idiots ready to help with the fleecing.

    We are watching Ralph Northam apply for the position of Useful Idiot, Senior Grade right now.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Jim, Funny but I don’t see any African Americans here praising your defense of them. In fact, I barely see any African American comments at all.Identity politics? Could be but could be revealing, too.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    it’s not just “poor blacks” that use transit… geeze… and transit in the Washington Dc region also means subsidized VRE and Van Pools and a significant number of white folks…

    We have in Fredericksburg right now – large apartment developments – right next to VRE. VRE takes them north to decent paying jobs even entry level and anyone who is familiar with CarMax and the like knows that one can pick up basic wheels for less than than 10K… Fredericksburg is overrun with used car dealers…

    I’m not sure what is going on with Jim these days but it’s more and more focused on racial…and less and less on what has been typical fare in BR over the years.

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Or MedicAid. Poor is poor, not black or white. I’ve been in a few dark hollers, e.g., Basset, and I’d bet the whole bloody lot depend, or will depend, exclusively on Medicaid. Speakin’ of which, if COV2 hits Bassett, it’ll kill the whole town. Didn’t see a healthy one in the place.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        “Uninsured Virginians under age 65 represent every population in Virginia: 43.4% are white non-Hispanic, 22.2% are African American/Black, 25.4% are Hispanic”

        There are about twice as many “poor” whites than poor blacks in Virginia, yet we often spend so much time talking about the “poor” as if they are largely blacks… e.g. they are “hurt” by various economic policies, health care, and now transit – which means those policies must be “racist”.

        Those same policies also “hurt” about twice as many whites… so are they also victims of “racist policies”?

        1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

          They are disproportionate, not the majority. That’s what allowed Reagan’s Welfare Queen lie to find root with the racists. Hey, got their vote, and hurt everyone. More Southern Strategy.

          Medicaid expansion, or rather the not thereof, was more Southern Strategy.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    Modern mass transit is not what it used to be, i.e. transportation for the lower income who could not afford a car.

    You don’t build the silver line to Dulles to transport “poor folks” from low-income housing to their city jobs.

    We don’t build HOT lanes from Washington to Fredericksburg for low income folks to their low income neighborhoods.

    Buses, vans, car pools, and VRE carry large number of people who make a higher income than in the places where their exurban homes are.

    How do we blame high housing costs on NoVa government or for than matter, Houston or Atlanta or Seattle, etc… the real reason is that a lot of not-poor folks or not rich enough to afford a 500K house which is the going rate in places like NoVa where land is scarce and expensive – a market condition that government has no real way to fix. It’s not a zoning issue – it’s simply the value of land and it’s worth more developed into higher density apartments than even 500K homes.
    The median income of VRE riders is 100K, not exactly low income folks.
    In fact, less than 3% of VRE riders make less than 50k a year.

  6. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    The media and academia are pissed. The unemployment rate for May dropped. The pukes at the Post tweeted about the huge jump in the jobless rate. Had to pull it down. Journalists’ credibility will be below robocallers pretty soon.

    “It’s not a zoning issue – it’s simply the value of land and it’s worth more developed into higher density apartments than even 500K homes.” Got that one spot on, except I’d add very expensive to high density.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      All media, including the WSJ were surprised… even the Govt folks who generate the data were surprised. And yes, all media “cans” their prospective headlines.. not unlike how Super Bowl caps and T-shirts are done for both possible outcomes!

      The value of land – very traditionally has been said to be the “highest and best use”. That’s a private sector/free market concept not a government or zoning idea. The very same house that can cost 500K in NoVa can cost 300K in Fredericksburg and 200K out in Kansas… the difference is the value of the land and in places like NoVa – developable land is scarce..

      And yes, developers and planners will assert that land near METRO will generate less car traffic than single family homes but in NoVa and other places, the folks that already live there – don’t want more folks living there if they add to the traffic – we get it down Fredericksburg way also – except our folks are opposed to more single family homes also…

      Everyone wants to live where there is no traffic!

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        Why would a competent journalist tweet before the figures were released? I can see writing in advance but you don’t post until you know the facts. Why does Bezos expect quality from Amazon but let the idiots run the asylum at the Post?

        Fully agree about the developers. They will say anything to get rezoned. Actually because of citizen involvement, the proposals from Tysons developers are much better supported.

        The fallout from COVID-19 will change the American economy in major ways. A lot more folks won’t be coming up I-95 everyday. And there will be a lot less pressure to show up in the office when one has a bug. The pressure will be in the other direction.

        Went to the office today for the first time to do more than pick up something. I saw three colleagues, well almost. I had to imagine their smiles under the masks. It truly lifted my spirits to see and talk with them (from an appropriate distance, of course).

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          All media screws up from time to time… it’s inherent in the culture to publish first.

          So you went to your job and they were all wearing masks and socially distancing…

          is that because of science or draconian edicts from Northam and other government?

          My experience is also that I’m seeing a lot of masks and social distancing but here in BR, we’re told that it’s not because of science but because of “elites” and Draconian edicts government.

          what say you?

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