Before COVID-19, racism was the ultimate pandemic

In the midst of the murder of George Floyd, the fires rage across the United States of America.

The South Florida Black Prosperity Alliance understands the pent-up rage within our community as Black people – men and women – continue to be murdered by those who have decided that it is open season.

An alliance of Civil Rights, social justice, and business leaders across the Tri-county region came together in response to COVID-19’s disproportionate impact to the Black community.

This collective body is gravely concerned about the continued disparities that plague our community and have committed to make demands of our state and federal elected officials to collaborate with us in addressing these disparities.

A clear picture

Once again, we find ourselves in another pandemic that continues to linger, and that’s the mistreatment and injustice to Black people.

Our community is hurt, angry, and outraged, and have responded accordingly to the brutal murder of George Floyd. And as an alliance, it is our duty to be a voice for this community and to demand that our elected officials, police chief, and the governor included sit at the table with us to discuss these issues.

COVID-19 has painted a clear picture. The Black community continues to suffer disproportionately from a health and economic perspective.

The Federal government has infused trillions of dollars to ensure the fiscal stability of the U.S., yet Black America still lags behind when it comes to realizing its fair share.

Additionally, the protests across the country is the community’s cry for change, and until this country can publicly discuss and address racial tensions, police brutality, and social injustice, things will never get better.

Our demands

The South Florida Black Prosperity Alliance is prepared to stand in the gap for this community and to sit at the table with community leaders and discuss viable solutions.

We are fed up at the disparities, the injustice, and the blind eye to all of it. We are demanding fair inclusion in procurement opportunities so that more Black businesses get a fair share of local contracting opportunities.

We are demanding a re-training of the entire police department. And in response to COVID-19’s impact, we are demanding that more dollars be allocated to address healthy equity and comorbidities in addition to funding being allocated specifically for Black businesses struggling to survive.

The data is clear. Black businesses were left out of PPP funding, and Black businesses will unfortunately bear the brunt of this pandemic.

The pandemic continues

It was only a matter of time before we would be forced to unite. COVID-19 only exasperated or peeled back the pandemic that has plagued the Black community since 1619.

W.E. Du Bois once stated, “The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.”

Fast forward to today, the U.S. claims the highest incarceration rate throughout the world with Black Americans making up 37% of the incarcerated population while only making up 13% of the total U.S. population.

Nearly 40% of police killings are of unarmed Black men. The pandemic continues.

Black children, marginalized by the third grade, and unable to read or comprehend, and are four times less likely to graduate on time, and six times likely to come from low-income families. The pandemic continues.

Food deserts, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure all have come to the forefront since the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Black businesses, all things remain the same. Black businesses continue to be the last, and when it comes to relief from the federal government, we are barely in the room.

The playing field has never been leveled, and now more than ever, we see that it never was meant for us to have a leveled playing field. So, the pandemic continues.

Eric Knowles is president of the Miami Dade Chamber of Commerce.

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