Why is Covid 19 Killing Black People?

Laura pearce

Posted on June 02 2020

By Kin Founder, Laura Pearce.

 

As a corporate wellness facilitator and Yoga teacher, so much of my existence centres around stress reduction modalities, and understanding the effects of stress on the emotional, physiological, and chemical level. I’ve recently come across some pioneering and truly revolutionary research that suggests the effect of stress on black and marginalised communities, has a far more sinister effect that we ever thought.

This research needs sharing, amplifying, funding, and further development. It could hold the key to unlocking some profoundly important questions, such as why are Black women (in Britain) FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY to die in childbirth1¹? Or why are black people in the UK THREE TIMES MORE LIKELY to get type 2 diabetes²??

Black women 5 times more likely to die in childbirth

As far as chronic stress generally, there is a host of research that shows the serious detrimental effect it can have on our bodies at the cellular level. Stress hormones have the effect of damaging our DNA (physically shortened telomeres)³ which some research points towards being a cause of early death. It can also increase the level of triglyceride fats in the bloodstream⁴ (triggered by stress hormones, not just diet) promoting diabetes. Stress also increases your white blood cell count and inflammation⁵. In short, stress buggers up your immune system and overall physical health.

Stress destroys our DNA

The new research that is beginning to place importance on racism and medical outcomes, is by the remarkable Airline Geronimus, whose research⁶ has been developed over the past 30 years or so. She says "The accumulated effects of environmental inequality are compounded by the physiological ramifications of an atmosphere of bias and discrimination, which have been documented to lead to higher rates of poor health outcomes for black Americans." She has termed this phenomenon ‘Weathering’; the constant resilience that black people need to call upon day-to-day, and the wearing down and toll it takes on their bodily systems, at the cellular level. Essentially racisms causes chronic stress/trauma, (as Black Minds Matter UK say “Ancestral trauma is trauma that is passed down to each generation and then re-enacted”)which leads to a tangibly weakened immune response.

This effect is explained beautifully in Kai Wright’s ‘The United States Of Anxiety’ Podcast⁷ on which Arline describes how stereotypes of black communities’ lifestyle choices being the cause of their poor health outcomes are detrimental and inaccurate. They even discuss how her research has lead to an immigrant being released from a detention centre. Although this immigrant wasn’t technically in the Covid high risk category age, their body is biologically older and more at risk due to chronic stress; putting them at high enough risk to be released. A beautiful, and revolutionary precedent that will hopefully be followed.

More black people are dying from Covid
On the social level of course, these issues are compounded by poor community-centric mental health funding, and the stereotype of the ‘angry’ or ‘strong’ black woman, who doesn’t need as much emotional support. We need to dismantle these stereotypes to facilitate a higher level of care in our NHS for black and marginalised communities, and open up more channels for mental health awareness in the black community.There are however, some very good charities doing this work already; we at Kin have decided to support the incredible Black Minds Matter UK, an organisation providing mental health resources and therapy for black trauma. We’d encourage other small businesses to do the same especially during this time of overwhelming environmental stressors for the black community. This Sunday 20th June, (International Yoga Day) I’ll be running free mindful meditations and breathing practices all day on our @Kinyogamats insta live, and on the same day Kin Yoga Mats will be donating 100% of our profits to Black Minds Matter UK.
@BlackMindsMatterUK Instagram post

@BlackMindsMatterUK Instagram post

I started Kin as a way to encourage people’s commitment to their Yoga practice; by creating mats that help physically with the practice, but also speak to all the senses, helping to create beautiful home sanctuaries for people to practice their wellness, in whatever form, every day. It’s always been apparent to me however that ‘wellness’ isn’t as democratized as many of us are lead to believe; the single POC mother living on the breadline doesn’t have access to regular Yoga classes. She doesn’t have the time, money, or inclination to attend studios that give off an ‘elitist’, predominantly white and often intimidating vibe.

I encourage everyone in the wellness and mental health arena to take a look at how we can provide wellness for the underprivileged, the marginalized, and the people who actually need it. WELLNESS SHOULDN’T JUST BE FOR THE WELL. Stress reduction for BIPOC and marginalized communities, it now seems, is so important; it can actually save lives.

Please check out all my references for this article below, and If you wish to donate to Black Minds Matter UK, you can do so via this Go Fund Me page.

 

REFERENCES

  1. BBC article “Black women 5 times more likely to die in childbirth”

  2. Diabetes statistics by ethnicity

  3. APA article on how chronic stress damages DNA & Telomeres

  4. Diabetes & Stress

  5. Research paper - Stress & White blood cell count

  6. ‘Weathering’ research by Arline Geronimus, John Bound & Timothy Waidmann

  7. PODCAST EPISODE; “Why Covid-19 is killing black people”

Also

New York Times article on racial disparity & Covid-19

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