We Need to Talk about Racism - In All of Its Forms - In Understand COVID-19 Disparities

Document Type


Publication Date



© Adrienne Milner et al. 2020; Published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2020. Purpose: Racism is an essential factor to understand racial health disparities in infection and mortality due to COVID-19 and must be thoroughly integrated into any successful public health response. But highlighting the effect of racism generally does not go far enough toward understanding racial/ethnic health disparities or advocating for change; we must interrogate the various forms of racism in the United States, including behaviors and practices that are not recognized by many as racism. Methods: In this article, we explore the prevalence and demographic distribution of various forms of racism in the United States and how these diverse racial ideologies are potentially associated with racialized responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Results: We find that among white Americans, more than a quarter express traditional racist attitudes, whereas more than half endorse more contemporary and implicit forms of racist ideology. Each of these types of racism helps us explain profound disparities related to COVID-19. Conclusions: Despite a robust literature documenting persistent patterns of racial disparities in the United States, a focus on the role that various forms of racism play in perpetuating these disparities is absent. These distinctions are essential to realizing health equity and countering disparities in COVID-19 and other health outcomes among people of color in the United States.