On April 16, The Star ran an editorial titled “Biases have no role in science.”
Your editorial argued that considering the race of COVID-19 victims could lead to “false conclusions” and reflects “unscientific biases.” It also stated that “Some politicians in the United States tend to seize upon anything in attempts to woo voters.”
Your argument was that statistics showing the impact of COVID-19 on racially marginalized groups could mislead or distract the overall research on the pandemic, with an additional hint that “some politicians” might use such information to “woo voters.”
I wrote a letter in response almost immediately. I pointed out that counting and arithmetic are not unscientific. I described some solid factual reasons why African-Americans and some other groups might be more at risk from the pandemic. I noted that “statistics from many cities show that Black people in the U.S. are dying disproportionately from COVID-19. It’s not just one article from The Associated Press, as your editorial implies.” Of course, the evidence in the time passed since then for that trend has grown even more solid than it was in mid-April.
Then I stated “editorialists can nit-pick any and all of these statements. But meanwhile, just as elderly people with medical conditions like me are more at risk and should be protected, the same is true of our African-American neighbors.”
Regular readers of this page will know that every month for years a letter of mine has appeared on these pages. But this letter was not printed.
I have no entitlement to have a letter printed here each month. But when a longstanding pattern is broken, you kind of wonder why.
Every day since your editorial, and since my rebuttal was not printed, the pattern of enhanced risk for African Americans — and even greater enhanced risk for Native Americans — has become clearer. Every day it has become clearer that these communities, with their own members in the lead, must get the substantial resources they need to keep people alive.
It is definitely true that “Some politicians in the United States tend to seize upon anything in attempts to woo voters.” Yes, and some editorialists tend to support them. Today, some politicians and editorialists have “seized upon” the idea that the pandemic is not real bad, and have chosen to ignore the plain fact that it does harm some communities more. They want us to ignore the realities that risky plans to “re-open” will especially benefit those who live safely with millions to invest, and will especially harm those of us, like me, who are elderly, and those of us who will actually be put at face-to-face risk in low-paying jobs.
I agree that biases have no legitimate role in science. I wish they had no role in politics, including the policies of editorial pages.
Larry Yates is a resident of Winchester.