Special webinar event: “Health, the Hidden Violence of the Race” — inclusion in the time of COVID-19, international webinars addressing racism, discrimination and exclusion

Flyer for event titled "The Hidden Violence of the Race"

This UNESCO webinar will take place on Wed, June 24 at 4 pm CEST (Paris time) – which is 10 am in Boston and 7 am in San Francisco, etc, and is organized by the UNESCO program on “The Slave Route: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage.” Professor Nancy Krieger will be a participant.


Nº du webinaire         988 9578 5182

Mot de passe             172242 

URL d’inscription

Find below the link for the webcast:

ENGLISH : http://webcast.unesco.org/live/room-02/en

FRENCH : http://webcast.unesco.org/live/room-02/fr

Presentation Notes

From December, the world has been gradually immersed in the COVID-19 sanitary crisis forcing most of the countries, one by one, to close any economical and social activities to try as much as possible to contain the spreading of the pandemic. First the virus was presented by the WHO experts as a public health emergency touching everybody, men/women, young/old, Asians/Europeans/Africans/etc., poor/rich, etc. In another words, it was presented as a non-discriminatory pandemic.

But after a couple of months and the production of some statistics, it appears that if the virus obviously does not discriminate, it clearly reveals the discriminatory structure and the deep social and economic inequalities of our societies. If everybody can be equally affected by the virus, the exposure and the consequences of the pandemic reveal the historical injustices faced by certain communities.

Early data of the COVID-19 crisis, broken down by race, is alarming. The case of the African Americans in the United States of America is now relatively well documented by the figures. In Chicago, as of early April 2020, 72% of people who died of coronavirus were black, although only one-third of the city’s population is. In Georgia, as of 17 April, white people accounted for 40% of COVID-19 cases where race was reported, although they represent 58% of the state. The disparity in the city of Milwaukee is just as clear. Census data shows that black people comprise about 41% of the city’s population, yet they have nearly half of the city’s COVID-19 cases. And 44 of the 67 people who have died in the county were black.

For most of the experts working on the social influence on health, this is roughly the consequences of 150 years of slavery followed by 100 years of Jim Crow. That means that black in the US, especially in the South, aged 60 and older were born during the era of separate and unequal access to education, healthcare, housing, criminal justice, and economic opportunity of all kinds. Today, the African American are still mainly excluded from a full access to the space of citizenship, especially regarding socio-political and economic opportunities.

Then there are the violence of slavery and the today “everyday racism” itself. The genetic traumas related to slavery and the allostatic load (or “weathering”) referring to the accumulated physiological burden from the stresses caused by racism and race-related disadvantage, such as the frequent secretion of stress hormones explain why African Americans are more likely to develop certain types of diseases. Indeed, these populations are proportionally much more affected by cardiovascular diseases or diabetes (about 3.2 million African Americans have diabetes) than any other community in the US.

In very different contexts, the pandemic seems also to underline that race, class and gender are inextricably intertwined and constantly intersect, generating dynamic feedback loops that maintain the complex structure of social inequality and its reproduction but also affect the body and its representation.

The understanding of the impact of racism and discrimination is too often limited to its consequences on social opportunities (education, job, housing, etc.) and the structural violence faced by people of color. But its articulation with health distribution (health being the possibility of life itself) are sometimes overlooked.

In the line of the work of the French philosopher M. Foucault, this webinar will focus on the biopolitical aspect of the COVID-19 as a pandemic that reveal the “politic of life”, the embodiment of social injustices and the effects of a systemic racism rooted in the history of slave trade and slavery and how it structures health and access to treatment.

Starting with the US experience, the discussion will also tackle the global situation of health inequalities in South America, the Caribbean and in the Indian Ocean and how it interacts with structural racism and exposed much more “black bodies” to infection and death. The different perspectives coming from sociology, history, epidemiology, etc. would try to understand the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on “black bodies”, not as something radically new, but as a social sequence that underlines the pattern of racial health inequalities.