CWU News

CWU Panel Explores Racial Justice in the Time of Pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, its impact has been much greater on communities of color for a variety of reasons. Central Washington University recently hosted a panel discussion to explore the historic and current racial inequities in medicine and how they might be overcome.
Specifically related to the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports ethnic minorities have been experiencing higher rates of morbidity and mortality than White, non-Hispanics.

“COVID-19 is killing people of African ancestry at 3.7 times that of white people,” reported Dr. Carylin Holsey, CWU Student Health Services medical director, who was among the panelists. “While Black people only make up approximately 12 to 13 percent of the overall population, almost 25 percent of COVID-19 deaths were Black people. One-third of the people that are hospitalized are Black people.”

Holsey further referenced a Pew Research Center poll that found more than 71 percent of African-Americans say they have experienced discrimination or have been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity.

“Those individuals went on to say they believed their treatment would have been different had their color been different,” she added.

For that reason, research has shown that Black adults tend to be less trusting of medical science, experimental treatments, or even potential vaccines to combat illness. And that could be problematic in the COVID-19 era.

“One thing that needs to happen is we need to increase the minority healthcare providers,” Holsey added. “We need to reduce the mistrust of medical providers, (and) optimize access to premier healthcare for everyone. Rarely do you see a hospital, or a major clinic, in an area of poverty. That’s got to change.”

The panel discussion also included CWU Professors Cynthia Coe, philosophy; and Marwa Ghazali and Rodrigo Renteria-Valencia, anthropology; and Jazmin Gonzalez, CWU anthropology student.

The virtual event was sponsored by CWU Libraries, the College of Arts and Humanities, and Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. It was the first is a series of presentations on social and ethical issues, and was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Public Affairs, 509-899-0235,