Fauci Again Blames Institutional Racism for COVID-19’s Impact on Black People; Biden Nominates First-Ever Native American to Cabinet; and More

Fauci blames “double whammy” and institutional racism for increased COVID-19 impact on the Black community.

As the COVID-19 crisis rages on, Black and Brown Americans are still being impacted at a disproportionate rate, with death and infections rates more than 30% higher than those of whites. And following similar comments he made over the summer, CNN has reported that the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has again attributed those alarming figures to the lasting impact of institutional racism in the United States.

During a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Dec. 17, Fauci (who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) was asked about the racial disparities in COVID-19 rates that had emerged during the pandemic. He responded that the Black community has been hit with a “double whammy” this year, noting that many Black adults have not been able to fully practice social distancing since many work as essential workers in jobs that increase their risk of exposure to the virus. The Black community also faces higher levels of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, chronic lung disease and kidney disease, all of which has only contributed to their disproportionate risk of contracting COVID-19.

Those issues, compounded with the history of racism in the U.S. has made COVID-19 particularly harmful for Black people. “Obviously, the African American community has suffered from racism for a very, very long period of time,” Fauci said. “I can’t imagine that that is not contributing to the conditions that [many] find themselves in, economically or otherwise.”

These comments echo the message Fauci had expressed previously on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ podcast “Learning Curve.” 

“African-Americans have suffered disproportionately from coronavirus disease,” he said. “They’ve suffered in that their rate of infection is higher because of the nature of the economic status that many of them find themselves in where they’re outside working, being unable to physically separate. And then when they do get infected… they are at much greater risk of suffering the deleterious consequences, including death.”

CNN also reported that David Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, spoke on these exact issues during a recent Facebook Live discussion.

“I think we need to think about devoting more resources to addressing the issues that create the disparities and prevalence in susceptibility to coronavirus,” Harris said. “The coronavirus has revealed to us that we also need to invest massive amounts of resources in our communities. Even if we have a vaccine and we are able to survive the virus, we can’t forget the lesson the virus taught us. We still have to insist on those resources.”


Biden nominates Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary — the first-ever Native American to serve on a presidential cabinet.

President-elect Joe Biden has announced that he plans to nominate Rep. Deb Haaland, a representative for the state of New Mexico, as his interior secretary once he takes over the presidency in January 2021.

If confirmed, Haaland’s position would be historic, making her the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary. Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo people and currently represents New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, which comprises Albuquerque and many of its suburbs. She’s held that role since 2019. Along with Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas, Haaland was also one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress.

In her role as interior secretary, Haaland would gain control of an agency responsible for managing and conserving the country’s federal lands and natural resources, including national parks and tribal lands.

In addition to Haaland, the Washington Post reported that Biden “has turned to North Carolina environmental regulator Michael S. Regan to become the first Black man to head the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as Obama administration veteran Brenda Mallory to serve as the first Black chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.”

“This brilliant, tested, trailblazing team will be ready on day one to confront the existential threat of climate change with a unified national response rooted in science and equity,” Biden said in a statement following the nominations. “They share my belief that we have no time to waste to confront the climate crisis, protect our air and drinking water and deliver justice to communities that have long shouldered the burdens of environmental harms.”

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland tweeted Thursday night. “I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”



Johnson & Johnson creates $100 million initiative for the fight against racial health inequities.

Corporate healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Hall of Fame company) has announced a five-year, $100 million commitment to invest in and promote health equity for historically disadvantaged populations.

The initiative is designed to help invest in research and solutions to eliminate health challenges within underserved communities, reducing mortality rates, improving Black maternal health and creating new and innovative models of healthcare across the country. The company will also be collaborating with other global companies, local governments and non-government organizations to develop more robust social programs and educational tools also designed to help close the racial health gap. 

Internally, as part of the pledge, Johnson & Johnson has also committed to developing an even more diverse workforce within the next five years with plans for 50% of management-and-above positions to be occupied by Black talent. 

“We created this initiative at Johnson & Johnson to address the urgent economic, social and health inequities in communities of color, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Michael Sneed, executive vice president of global corporate affairs and chief communication for the company in a statement to Fair360, formerly DiversityInc. “Our goal is to confront and help eradicate the racism that contributes to health inequities in underserved communities across the U.S.”

“This initiative is something I am personally passionate about, and I feel confident in the impact and change we can make at the intersection of healthcare and equality,” Sneed said. “Having worked at J&J for 37 years, I know what this organization is capable of, and I’m extremely proud of our commitment.”

Johnson & Johnson is also one of 37 companies to have recently joined a new organization named OneTen, a coalition of leading CEOs and companies committed to upskilling, hiring and promoting one million Black Americans over the next 10 years and creating a new and improved network of family-sustaining jobs with ample opportunities for advancement. To read more about those efforts, click here.


D.I. Fast Facts


Percentage of undocumented immigrant workers whose jobs are deemed essential for America’s recovery from COVID-19, according to the Department of Homeland Security.



Number of evictions large corporate landlords have served in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas since September 2020, despite a federal government eviction ban.
NBC News



Number of bisexual men who report having fasted for more than eight hours in order to influence their weight or appearance, compared to 20% of gay men. In the study of 4,500 LGBTQ adults, 80% of bisexual men also said that they frequently “felt fat,” and 77% had a strong desire to lose weight. Together, these findings make bisexual men more likely to experience eating disorders than either heterosexual or gay men.
NBC News


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.



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