Systemic health and social inequities have contributed to disproportionately higher rates of severe illness and death from COVID-19 for minoritized populations. Social drivers of health caused the COVID-19 pandemic to disproportionately harm certain populations. Acknowledging the legacy of oppression, discrimination, and inequity in policies that affect the well-being of people is both legal and evidence-based. Attempts to paint these efforts as radical are out of step with science and social policy.
And yet, this SCOTUS term, a powerful network of right-wing funders, think tanks, and lawyers is zeroing in on undermining diversity and racial equity measures based on claims of “reverse racism.” This playbook is not confined to the college admissions space. Earlier this year, right-wing legal groups used similar falsehoods to challenge health equity measures instituted by New York City and New York State during the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance recommended that medical professionals–in their independent judgment–consider race or ethnicity alongside other relevant factors in evaluating the risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19.
Our work to debunk “reverse racism” has included representing a coalition of more than 16 leading medical and public health organizations in these health equity cases to explain to the court that such evidence-based policies are both appropriate and legal.
This week, a federal court held hearings in both cases, with one of the judges citing our work throughout arguments.