Racism and a Pandemic

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

Straddling the borders of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, the Navajo Nation (the size of West Virginia), is finally making the headlines in the overwhelming hardships of the COVID – 19 pandemic. While only representing 5 percent of the population of New Mexico, Navajo Nation has suffered with 20 percent of the COVID – 19 cases.  According to the New York Times, Navajo Nation, with a population of 175,000, has more cases of COVID – 19 than eight states.

Many physical realities work against Native Americans during a pandemic.  While most of the country is busy washing their hands, 30 percent of Navajo Nation has no running water.  Many families live in crowded conditions and remain in close physical contact with other families.  Inadequate infrastructure has hampered the ability of Native Americans to get to medical appointments; as a result they travel as long as an hour on dirt or gravel roads in New Mexico, and those roads are frequently impassible after heavy rain or snow.  Only 1/5 of the roads are paved, and poor road conditions can mean life or death for patients needing regular medical attention, like kidney dialysis.  Often, many miss their appointments.

Family of 2 Navajo Women Outside Their Traditional Hogan Hut

The overarching problem for Native Americans in a health care setting is discrimination.  The Cochran Colloquium – Toronto, in its study, “Discrimination in the United States:  Experience of Native Americans,” noted that “more than one in five Native Americans (23 percent), reported experiencing discrimination in clinical encounters, while 15 percent avoided seeking health care for themselves or family members due to anticipated discrimination.”  Even in a pandemic, it is no surprise that many Native Americans would hesitate to seek medical treatment and face more discrimination.

With the passage of the CARES ACT by Congress, Native Americans are scheduled to receive eight billion dollars for protective equipment, testing, and related services.  They faced three problems: delay, delay, delay.  The process is slow and complicated.

Like every citizen in the United States, Native Americans will continue to face an unrelenting and deadly pandemic, made more difficult by the effects of crippling poverty, an inadequate and distant health care system, poor education, and inadequate infrastructure

The deadliest disease that Native Americans face is racism.  From the racism of the early settlers, to the “Trail of Tears,” to the present reality, racism is stealing lives among our first citizens.  Having awareness of racism does not make it go away.  Do we have the will to eliminate the disease of racism?  There is no vaccine.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

16 responses to “Racism and a Pandemic

  1. Sister Judy,
    I am ashamed that I was not aware of these issues. As a child, I loved the old Westerns like Roy Rogers, Hop A Long Cassidy, etc. When I played in my neighborhood, I always chose to be an Indian or more correctly Native American. Thank you for raising my consciousness. I will do what I’m able to personally contribute to making positive changes.

  2. It has just been released that Doctors Without Borders is coming to help the Navajo Nation with the corona virus. That’s an answer to prayers and pressure.

  3. Thank you Sr. Judy for such a profound and moving description of the anguish of our Native Americans families. I was aware of the lack of news reporting, the lack of water but more than that, you brought front and center issues that are heart wrenching and disturbing in need of prayer and attention. The question that comes to mind is this! What can we do together? Yes, I can pray and fast and not complain about the inconveniences caused by this pandemic but, what can we do together?

  4. Thank you, Judy, for insisting that we confront the harsh reality of systemic racism that is literally killing our sisters and brothers. As it has from the first day of European conquest. Your words leave us no room to feel bad and do nothing. Thank you!

  5. Thank you, Judy. It’ so sad to realize that our government has played such a large part in causing this difficulty.

  6. Judy, I truly believe that racism is the most serious illness in our world today. I hold those Native Americans who are not able to have what they need at this most difficult time! Thanks for helping me keep that in my heart and prayer!

  7. An eye opening look at the government imposed isolation of native Americans — a terrible kind of racism! The cowboy movies did not help foster any understanding of people who are REALLY the only people who are the real natives of this land. It was taken away from them.

  8. Thank you, Judy, for this sad and necessary update. I appreciate being awakened anew with the facts of the Native American population, the devastating statistics and results of racism.

  9. Judy you are so right that “Raism” is the most serious illness in the USA and around the World. We do not respect that we all belong to the human race and are equal in God’s heart.

  10. Thank you so much Judy for your thoughts on this Pandemic and the Navajo Nation. I always worry about them more so. They live in such poverty stricting area of our country and we do not hear about their situation at all through our social medias. Heartstriking it is.

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