Socialist Worker

BBC doc exposes systemic racism behind Covid deaths

Issue No. 2745

Actor David Harewood investigates

Actor David Harewood investigates (Pic: BBC)


Black, Asian and minority ethnic patients are dying in disproportionate numbers from Covid-19. Actor David Harewood felt compelled to discover the reasons why.

David starts his journey in Brent, north west London. During the first wave of the pandemic, the borough had the highest Covid-19 mortality rate in Britain  It is also one of Britain’s most diverse areas. Nearly 65 percent of the local population are black, Asian or from other minority ethnic groups.

Dr Tariq Husain, head of the Intensive Care Unit at the nearby Northwick Park Hospital, describes the tidal wave of cases that overwhelmed their capacity. Black people seemed the hardest hit.

David finds out that what happened in Brent is mirrored across the country. He asks what it is about being black that puts him at such an increased risk. The answer, he discovers, is systemic racism.

David finds out that a big risk factor is the job that you do.

Key workers risk their lives, exposing themselves to the virus as they keep the country running. And black people are more likely to do this work.

He asks why many black people do these frontline jobs.

He and his sister Sandra discuss their parents’ experiences as new migrants to Britain in the 1950s, and how race still impacts what jobs people are likely to get.

Another aspect is deprivation.

It becomes increasingly clear to David that black people are proportionately more likely to live in deprived conditions. 

He ends his journey frustrated.

But he also has some hope—that the inequalities exposed by Covid-19, and the Black Lives Matter movement, could make a pivotal moment of change.

Now on BBC iPlayer

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