A Harvard Medical School study concluded that reparations for descendants of slaves could have reduced the spread of COVID-19 among the United States’s black population.
“Almost all of the COVID models you’ll look at have to do with wearing masks, social distancing, closing down businesses — that kind of thing,” said Harvard Medical School professor Eugene Richardson, who is the chairman of a Harvard commission studying reparations. “Yet there are these huge health disparities, notably between people of color and white people, especially in the U.S., and you rarely see racial justice interventions being incorporated into these models.”
The study said, “Black Americans are suffering from a significantly disproportionate incidence of COVID-19.” It also pointed out that the “potential for actual racial-justice interventions, including reparations payments, to ameliorate these disparities has not been adequately explored.”
A team of researchers set out to answer this question and concluded that some sort of reparations program would have beneficial health implications for the country’s black population.
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“While there are compelling moral and historical arguments for racial-injustice interventions such as reparations, our study considers potential health benefits in the form of reduced SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk,” the researchers said. “A restitutive program targeted towards Black individuals would not only decrease COVID-19 risk for recipients of the wealth redistribution; the mitigating effects would also be distributed across racial groups, benefiting the population at large.”
Harvard Medical School assistant professor Michelle E. Morse, one of the authors of the study, said it’s possible that reparations “could have been as effective as a vaccine.”
“I think the fact that the U.S. has skirted its responsibility and avoided reach for reconciliation in a meaningful way for hundreds of years is why we keep seeing the same pattern of racial injustice play out over and over and over again in this country,” Morse said.
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Morse said a way to improve the field of medicine is to bring in more of a social science perspective, adding that collaborations between medical and social scientists will lead to better research.
“One of the ways that we improve in medicine is by bringing in more social science, instead of only focusing on the biomedical model,” Morse said. “In the health community and the health professions, we need to continue to seek out collaborations with the social science disciplines.”