The Atlantic Institute's fifth webinar in the series explored Racialization of COVID-19: Resistance and Reimagining. It examined racism as a factor in the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, and how the virus has exposed the need for urgent change.
Michael Smith, Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity, Director of Youth Opportunity Programs at the Obama Foundation and Executive Director of the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, spoke about Black communities in the US not only dealing with surface wounds but also with "generational wounds".
Mr Smith said that "the moment right now", following George Lloyd's brutal death at the hands of US police, is why My Brother's Keeper had been established. The disproportionate impact that coronavirus is having on Black communities was due, in part, he added, to the increased risks that Black people have to take working on the front line as bus-drivers, train-drivers and low-income childcarers. "We still live in a US where racism is killing Black and Brown families...There's still not enough data on what the disparities are when it comes to health". Seeing the global outrage and protests showing solidarity with Black communities and the Black Lives Matter movement had moved him to tears: "This is a gut-wrenching, traumatic moment but we're sensing this as an opportunity to see real reforms."
Dr Mera Penehira, Associate Professor in Indigenous Education at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi (University in New Zealand), spoke about the ongoing racism against Maori people there. She explained that being inherently more susceptible to respiratory disease, the community was particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. " We resisted waiting for government...We took and continue to take matters into our own hands for our health and wellbeing” she said, describing how the Maori community "raised the bar" on every government guideline, so rather than protect only those who were 70 years or older, they reduced the "at risk age" to 60 because "we are vulnerable earlier".
Tracy Jooste, Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity, is a Senior Advocacy Officer for International Budget Partnership, which collaborates with civil society around the world to analyze and influence public budgets in order to reduce poverty. As an advocate for those living in informal settlements in South Africa, she said: " Underserved communities are considered as undeserving communities", saying one primary strategy was to "interrogate city budgets in detail. Show we understand the budget and push them to make better choices".
Atlantic Fellows and staff were joined for the first time in this webinar series by Roddenberry Fellows.