Racial disparities fuel post-pandemic recovery challenges, experts say

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 10:55 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -Communities of color will have a hard time bouncing back post pandemic because of economic inequality gaps that worsened over time, according to a UW-Madison inequality expert.

“There are racial disparities in almost any outcome that you can think of,” Denia Garcia, UW-Madison professor of public affairs said. “Racism exists in almost every institution.”

Garcia studies the role of space and organizations in shaping how inequalities are experienced and reproduced.

She said a level playing field pre-pandemic did not exist.

“What led us to where we are right now isn’t just covid, it’s an accumulation of inequality over generations,” she said

She said communities of color were already playing catch up and the pandemic made it worse.

“Around February of 2020, unemployment for Black Americans was almost twice as high as that of white Americans,” she said.

But now, unemployment is 5 percent for white people, 7.5 percent for Latinos and 10 percent for Black people.

Garcia said the racial wealth gap remains an area of concern.

“They have not had those opportunities to build their wealth and pass it on for generations and we know that wealth accumulates. You grow interest from that,” she said.

According to her research, the wealth of a white family is seven times greater than the wealth of a Black family.

“A lot of people think that racism is someone saying certain words, thinking less of others, but that is only the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

She explained systemic racism is the reason for these gaps.

“The way that our society structured the policies that we’ve had for generations that have disadvantaged certain people,” she said.

Much like the great recession, she said a global pandemic amplified racial inequities that already existed.

“I don’t think that people understand yet how serious it will be for people to recover,” she said.

The expert said funding to help communities of color get back on the feet is pivotal, but it’s just a short-term solution. She said changing policies to break systemic racism is a long term fix.

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