Committee Reports

Racial Justice and the Right to Adequate Healthcare, Through the Human Rights Lens


Racial Justice and the Right to Adequate Healthcare, Through the Human Rights Lens

The New York City Bar Association, through its United Nations Committee, wishes to address the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color as viewed through the lens of the human rights framework.   This topic is important to address since the COVID-19 virus has ravaged the minority communities of the United States and the United Kingdom, among others. The NAACP issued an alarming poll back in 2020, revealing the horrifying effect that COVID-19 was having on the African American community in particular: “The pandemic has pulled the curtain back on many of the nation’s racial problems. It is clear from our survey that African Americans are very concerned, not only about the racially-disparate impact of COVID-19 but also about the federal government’s laissez-faire approach to slowing down the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Ray Block, Director of the Research Project for AARC and Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies, Penn State University.”   

Early in the pandemic there were indications that COVID-19 was impacting individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds more severely.  In the United Kingdom, newspaper articles highlighted the ways in which healthcare workers who died from COVID-19 were predominantly ethnic minorities, and presented prima facie evidence that death rates were higher in areas heavily populated by individuals who are marginalized. Substantive evidence that death rates were higher among Black and Asian patients who had contracted the disease has made clear that there are ethnic inequalities in the on-going risks of mortality from COVID-19 in the global population. While each loss to COVID-19 is a catastrophe, the varying impacts of the virus across ethnic groups have impacted communities and families in differing ways.

While the exact reasons for unequal impact of the COVID-19 crisis on minority ethnic groups remains unclear, a framework for further researching said inequities is much needed. Research has been stalled by a lack of a theoretical understanding of ethnicity and race, as well as the potential pathways leading to inequalities.  We support the establishment of a framework for understanding the pathways and health outcomes that have generated ethnic and racial inequalities in COVID-19 impacts. There are complex dimensions to ethnicity hence the need for further investigation to accelerate the recovery from COVID-19 and to reduce the mortality of minorities.  To accomplish this goal, research must be undertaken to explore the concepts of race and ethnicity and the methods to address race and ethnic inequities in the health system. 

For these reasons, we support the creation of a specifically targeted project examining the longstanding systemic barriers and institutional racism that have contributed to the wide disparity in outcomes of survival and rehabilitation during the pandemic with a concentration on hotspots of disparity such as New York City, the United States, the United Kingdom and globally.

United Nations Committee
Dr. Sophia Murashkovsky*, Co-Chair
Ervin Nina, Co-Chair
Catherine Van Kampen, Co-Chair

*Primary Draftsperson