Speaking on the House floor, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) claimed that reparations for slavery could have helped slow the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic.
While attempting to rally support for H.R. 40 — the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act — legislation that would establish a congressional commission to study the potential cost and impact of reparations for slavery, Jackson Lee cited a study from Harvard Medical School which argued that living conditions and work environments in the Black community were more conducive to the coronavirus’ rapid spread.
The Texas Democrat then noted that COVID infection rates within minority communities had initially appeared to be greater than the infection rates within White communities or the population at large.
“There is no doubt we have been impacted, that DNA in the trajectory of slavery to today. For example, COVID. Black African Americans have gotten COVID at a rate of nearly 1.5 times higher than that of White people who are hospitalized at a rate of nearly four times higher and three times more likely to die. COVID hit us very desperately,” the Democrat congresswoman began.
Jackson Lee went on to claim that reparations would have decreased the wealth gap for Black Americans — which she said would have allowed them to have access to better health care, better education and possibly less crowded living conditions.
“Reparations for African Americans could have cut COVID-19 transmission and infection rates both among Blacks and the population at large,” she argued. “Reparations are curative, they’re not punishment. The analysis continued to look at data throughout the nation.”
REP. JACKSON LEE: "Reparations for African-Americans could have cut COVID-19 transmission and infection rates both among blacks and the population at large." pic.twitter.com/GpgKBr2AHf
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) November 17, 2022
The study’s co-author, William Darity — the Samuel DuBois Cook Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at Duke University and a Lancet reparations commissioner — asserted that “wealth is more strongly associated with familial or individual well-being.”
Darity also explained that Black Americans have a much lower average net worth than White Americans, and argued that “this dramatically restricts the ability of Black Americans to survive and thrive.”
While Jackson Lee’s data — the claim that Black Americans saw higher infection, hospitalization and death rates — was initially correct, more recent data reveals that death rates actually evened out across racial demographics later on in the pandemic. In the early months of the pandemic, Jackson Lee was technically correct about her statistics — but as of October, the death rate among White Americans had “eclipsed” that of other groups, according to data evaluated by The Washington Post.
White COVID deaths are increasing in US, surpassing death rate of Blacks. The overall age-adjusted death rate for White people slightly surpassed that of Black and Latino people in the past year. #socy126 https://t.co/qGrK1P53Ea
— Nicholas A. Christakis (@NAChristakis) October 19, 2022