Posted on April 23, 2020

Civil Rights Leaders Warn Early Reopening During the Coronavirus Pandemic Could Cost Black Lives

Anagha Srikanth, The Hill, April 23, 2020


A petition circulated by the Black Voters Matter Fund asks for safety plans, realtime data on COVID-19 by county and race, increased support for low-income communities and those of color, an expansion of Medicaid and enhanced unemployment support.

“We are people who believe that we should not have to choose between the safety of our people and the economic wellness of our state. We are people who believe that there are solutions that do not require us to choose between the safety of our families and having enough money to put food on the table,” the petition reads.

Advocates from the charity were joined by members of the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative, and the Highlander Research and Education Center, as well as health, labor, and faith-based experts during a virtual press conference on April 23.

“Black workers are overrepresented in essential positions, and that’s one of the reasons we’re suffering such high death rates. In Mississippi, Black people make up 38 percent of the population but 63 percent of COVID-19 cases. In Georgia, we’re more than 54 percent of COVID-19 patients. These governors are exploiting Black labor, ignoring the humanity of Black people, and refusing to acknowledge that Black lives matter. We need to shift from that, and that means keeping folks at home,” said Spencer Overton, President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

The letter addresses six governors of southern states: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.