Black retail workers on coronavirus frontlines

April 23, 2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation, America’s retail workers took on the role of unlikely heroes as state, local, and federal officials enacted strict social distancing measures to curb the spread of the deadly virus. An unfortunate consequence, however, has been that Black communities are among the hardest hit, exacerbated by the nation’s racial inequalities.

CNN reported (https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/15/business/black-retail-workers-grocery-store-coronavirus/index.html) that black retail workers are feeling particularly vulnerable as they face an increased risk of exposure to the virus. While Black Americans make up only 11.9% of the nation’s workforce, a high number have roles in “essential services”, which are allowed to stay open, such as local grocery stores and delivery drivers.

As the virus struck, early reports suggested that Black Americans were being killed by the virus at greater rates. Poor quality of health, a lack of access to proper healthcare and risky work conditions have all been listed (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/opinion/coronavirus-racism-african-americans.html) as major contributing factors to the threat Black Americans face by this modern crisis.

And with official guidelines prescribing the use of face masks in public to curb the spread, black men worry the new recommendations would put them at risk of police racial profiling (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/us/coronavirus-masks-racism-african-americans.html).

“Black workers are putting their lives and health on the line to provide goods and services that matter to our society,” McKinsey & Company said in a new report (https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-sector/our-insights/covid-19-investing-in-black-lives-and-livelihoods).

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