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Daddy, why are you crying?: Black fathers giving 'The Talk' to children earlier



With Black families, the timing for “The Talk” traditionally comes later, with getting a driver’s license

But Marcus Gause found himself sitting down with his 12-year-old son earlier this month.

“He said, ‘Daddy, why are you crying?’ ” Gause said of that day looking into his son’s eyes with his wife, Tomakio beside him. “I said, ‘I feel like I’m taking something away from you.’ ”

Soon after the Andrews High School principal watched his first born come into the world, the new father promised himself he would envelope him with the same love and guidance he got from parents, grandparents and extended family. That he would always make it his mission to protect him and do his part to make the world a better place for him.

He didn’t expect “The Talk” — how interactions with the police for Black people, especially males, can be life-altering — to be part of it, at least not so soon.

As Gause looked at a child who embraces the world with a wide-eyed excitement, he even wondered if he had worked hard enough to make the world outside their home a better place for a kid who just liked to explore his neighborhood.

But another Black man had just died at the hands of the police under controversial circumstances and protests had gone global. The police were being called on Black people under everyday circumstances, like walking through their own yards. He didn’t want his son to be caught off-guard with the way people might treat him in a world where studies show police disproportionately pay more attention to Black people.

This Father’s Day, Black men say they see hope in conversations now taking place regarding race, but they are facing the same circumstances that burdened their parents and now, seemingly, their children. As race dominates the headlines, many Black fathers find themselves discussing strategies based on the color of their skin before the “birds and bees.”

“There are people in the neighborhood who may not like you and treat you different because of the color of your skin,” Gause told his son that day. “I said, ‘You can walk every day if you want to, but I need for you to take your phone with you.’

“I had to have a conversation about the things that were going on,” Gause said. “I also felt like I was taking some of the innocence from a child who I think is absolutely amazing.”

It forced the son to be more cognizant of what was going on around him, just as it had a 16-year-old Gause when he was stopped by police for speeding in his Eastern North Carolina town.

Studies and statistics show how, from employment opportunities to housing, race colors day-to-day experiences for people who are Black. Slavery in this country was followed by Jim Crow or legalized segregation, which, for example, included barriers to Black people living where they want to, such as real estate agents steering them to Black neighborhoods, banks scrutinizing their loan applications more critically and many Blacks not earning as much as White people — which some say remains the baggage of history.

The concept of “White privilege” means White people don’t have to think about it.

That has led to the birth of a number of Twitter hashtags, including #drivingwhileblack — and the accompanying stories of being pulled over by the police — and those designating a #Karen, or White woman who calls police on Black people doing everyday activities such as birdwatching.

It reflects the humor Black people try to find to keep from crying.

When it comes to the police, Gause doesn’t paint every officer with the same brush, but he is calling out the culture of policing where an officer can kneel on the neck of a man until that man loses consciousness without other officers on the scene stopping it.

And he wants to be part of the solution.

Talking to our kidsA young Brian “B-Daht” McLaughlin was riding with an uncle when they noticed the flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror.

As the officer approached the vehicle his uncle sat upright and spoke more articulately than in the laid back conversation they had been having.

“I remember immediately as the officer told him to hang tight and goes back to the car, my uncle went from a ‘Yes, sir’ to having the angriest face,” said McLaughlin, now a radio personality with 102.1 FM, comedian and social activist.

“In that same vein, my uncle was speeding,” McLaughlin said. “He got a ticket for speeding. He wasn’t angry at the cop for giving him a speeding ticket. He was more upset with the way he had to act in order to make the officer comfortable. The way he felt he had to water down himself just to not be perceived as a threat.”

Gause, the principal, was pulled over for speeding in his hometown of Supply when he was 16. He might have been going seven to 10 miles over the speed limit, he said.

“He immediately said for me to put my hands on the steering wheel,” Gause recalled.

The officer then asked for his driver’s license and registration, and Gause leaned toward the glove compartment to get them. That’s when he noticed the officer’s hand move toward his gun — he froze.

“My parents always taught me to be respectful — ‘Yes, ma’am,’ ‘No, sir’ — to everyone,” he said. “That’s what I thought would take me far. He looked at me and said, ‘What’s wrong with you, just give me the registration.’ ”

The officer wrote him a ticket and instead of handing it to him, dropped it on the seat through the passenger’s side window. And the officer wrote it for 18 miles above the speed limit. He was left feeling empty inside.

This was 1995.

“My mother was so nervous at that time,” Gause said. “In hindsight I realized that it wasn’t because I got that ticket, but because I had an interaction with a White police officer.”

That interaction differed from what he witnessed while riding with a White 16-year-old classmate who was also stopped for speeding.

“Cody was speeding and showing off going 65 (mph) in a 35,” Gause said. “The police officer came to the car and said, ‘Boy, what are you doing? Who is your friend and y’all better not be up to no good.”

But the officer was jovial.

Cody told him his license was in his book bag, and he got out of the car and walked around to the other side to get the license to hand to the officer.

The officer handed Cody his license back. Just told him to slow down.

“I was floored,” Gause recalled.

In even mundane situations, there remains a sense that race still matters.

“The difference between then and now is that the part we can’t leave off in talking to our kids is that we didn’t age out of it,” said Steven Cureton, a Black UNCG sociology professor and researcher whose focus areas include race in America.

“Our grandfathers gave the talk as a rite of passage,” said Cureton, who is also a dad. “Now it’s, ‘I survived it and it can still be an issue with someone my age.’ I can be a victim of the very same thing.”

Cureton, who took in his then-teenaged nephew years ago, would sit him down and go over things to do and not do when he is in a car with other young Black men who come in contact with the police. While “The Talk” differs slightly among families, it’s designed to do everything to get them home safely. So hands out the window or on the steering wheel so the officer can see them, direct eye contact with the officer and no sudden movements. Do not reach for identification until the officer says so. If it’s night, make sure the car’s inside light is on to give the officer an easy visual.

“Now it goes for daughters as well,” Cureton said. “The talk that I give to my daughter is to make sure you have a clean glove compartment. I don’t want you searching. You can’t have too many movements. And just hit record on your phone.”

Black parents still worry it may not be enough for their children or them.

And now, it’s not just while driving. Those interactions can be anywhere.

“It’s not even the police any more,” Cureton said. “It’s people who can use the police as a weapon.”

Those like the woman who called the police last month on a birdwatcher in New York City’s Central Park who asked her to put her dog on a leash — whose voice took on a frightened tone she didn’t have before dialing 911 on the Black man.

Parents also have to balance those conversations with not allowing them to feel devalued.

“You are not the sum total of what people are making you out to be,” Cureton recalled saying to his own daughter. “Your life is equal. I don’t want you to live in fear, I just want you to be smart.’”

Being born White in this society gives you a certain amount of privilege — you are generally assumed to be a person of some respectability, unless you prove otherwise. But even well-educated Black people who do all the right things, say all the right things, say they are not greeted in the same way.

Cureton, who holds a doctorate from Washington State University and is the author of half a dozen books, including his latest on racial reconciliation, recalls being pulled over by the police and having to force himself to stay focused.

“Two police cars become five and five cars become six, and they all have their hands on their holsters and you wonder if this is all necessary,” Cureton said. “You try to listen to everything they say and focus on what they say and that can be hard to focus when you are watching hands on their guns.”

But in discussions among Black people there is a common thread among those officers who seemingly overstep the boundaries. Cureton has sensed that, too.

“There are some police officers that have an issue with having their authority challenged,” Cureton said. “And at those times, even complete compliance doesn’t matter. They want you to have a healthy dose of humiliation. Like I’m in the way of you going home.”

The result of that anger and frustration being bottled up is why so many people are protesting in the streets and some protests have boiled over into violence, Cureton said.

“When our parents were telling us about the police, it was never filmed, it was never on social media,” Cureton said.

And that was supposed to be a turning point for justice.

“We thought if you would see it, you would believe it,” Cureton said. “Now that you see it, it’s that we have to examine what you see.”

‘We need allies’McLaughlin says it’s important to do everything he can to be part of the change that his children will benefit from. He wants people to be able to appreciate that his 13-year-old, Izayah, has every day since he was 5 talked with his dad about what integrity means and being a leader and is now showing leadership tendencies.

And every day McLaughlin has told his 8-year-old daughter Riyen she’s beautiful.

“I tell her that I love that you are confident, that you ask questions, your chocolate skin — I continue to reinforce those things in her,” he said.

Recently, morning show competitors from “Jared and Katie in the Morning” on 107.5 FM, who have a different listener demographic, proposed a joint venture to talk about George Floyd, Black Lives Matter and the protests.

“We’ve been preaching this forever but we need allies to say ‘We don’t know enough,’” McLaughlin said of listening to each other. “It’s not our responsibility to say ‘How not?’ but to educate. I thought it was powerful and beneficial.”

It’s just one of the many things that gives him hope this Father’s Day, including the diverse solidarity over the world. The younger demographics out there protesting “the right way, letting their voices be heard,” McLaughlin said.

“That’s what makes me think this is not just a moment but a movement.”

On governor's orders, crews remove Confederate monuments in Raleigh a day after protesters topple statues

RALEIGH — Crews removed two downtown Confederate statues Saturday morning — memorials that have stood at the Capitol for over a century.

The removals come less than 24 hours after protesters pulled down the two bronze soldiers on the 75-foot Confederate monument at the Capitol Friday night.

Friday night, protesters hung the statue of a cavalryman by its neck from a streetlight. The other statue, an artilleryman, was dragged through the streets to the Wake County Courthouse and later was carried away by police.

Saturday, after Friday’s rainy skies had cleared, crews removed the 7-foot-tall monument to the North Carolina Women of the Confederacy, dedicated in 1914, and The Henry Wyatt Monument, dedicated in 1912.

About 60 people crowded around the work crews, chanting “Black power” and singing “Lift every voice and sing.”

“Once we get past this, we’ll be a better nation,” said Marvin Taylor of Raleigh, holding his daughter. “We’ll be unified. This is a first step of a work in progress.”

Around 11 a.m. Saturday, crews separated the statue atop the Confederate Women’s Monument from its concrete base, and witnesses report seeing a Department of Transportation truck with a boom arm nearby. It took about two minutes to hoist the monument dedicated to women off its pedestal and load it on a flatbed.

The Henry Wyatt Monument, a bronze statue atop a granite base, depicts the first Confederate soldier to die in battle. It was removed shortly thereafter.

The Wyatt statue took a bit longer to remove, a corner of metal clinging to the concrete, seeming to struggle against removal. But Wyatt, too, dangled in the air, thick straps under his arms, carted away to cheers. Some shouted at the statue, “See you never” and “Maybe you’ll get in a museum.”

The Department of Public Safety also did not provide details on who gave the order for police to stand down Friday night, but told The News & Observer it was done for safety reasons.

“With the continuously evolving and volatile environment on the State Capitol grounds Friday evening, along with the ongoing threat to public safety, actions taken by SCP were intended to protect protesters, bystanders and law enforcement,” wrote Pamela Walker, a Department of Public Safety spokesperson, in an email.

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin referred questions about how and why the statues were torn down to the Highway Patrol and State Capitol Police Saturday afternoon. They were the lead agencies in charge, she said.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s spokespeople did not respond to multiple requests for comment Saturday about Friday’s events. But Cooper issued a statement Saturday afternoon saying he ordered the Confederate monuments on Capitol grounds removed to protect public safety.

“I am concerned about the dangerous efforts to pull down and carry off large, heavy statues and the strong potential for violent clashes at the site,” Cooper said.

The monuments being removed from the Capitol grounds include: the remainder of the North Carolina Confederate monument, the monument to the Women of the Confederacy and the figure of Henry Lawson Wyatt.

Kerwin Pittman, a Raleigh social justice advocate who has helped lead recent protests, watched the Confederate Women’s Monument be removed.

“The question is, did they take it down because they didn’t want us taking it down?” asked Kerwin Pittman, social justice advocate, “or because of the racism these Confederate statues represent? There used to be a lot of red tape you had to go through. Now all of a sudden you can just take them down. Shame on you, Raleigh.”

Officer injuries

The State Capitol Police, which fall under the N.C. Department of Public Safety, is tasked with keeping the Capitol grounds safe, where the statues were damaged Friday.

Walker said at least three Capitol police officers were injured during the protest Friday night.

“One officer has a fractured wrist, another has lacerations to his hand and one had to have his eyes flushed due to having an unknown liquid thrown in (his) eyes,” Walker wrote. “I am told that officers had pain and unknown liquids, possibly urine, thrown on them, as well as rocks and frozen water bottles thrown at them.”

One person was arrested and charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, trespassing, unlawfully resist, delay or obstruct a public officer, among others, Walker wrote.

Other arrests and charges may be forthcoming, she said.

Saturday morning, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger of Eden questioned why law enforcement were managing the crowd for some time but then “abruptly left” the area Friday night.

That allowed protesters to go in and tear the statues down with no one to stop them.

“I’m aware of only one person in this state who has final authority over state law enforcement,” Berger continued, referring to Cooper. “Did Gov. Cooper order the police to abandon the Capitol grounds? If not, who is in control of this state?”

Cooper’s representatives also did not respond Saturday to criticism about him.

Walker said the agency would work to answer the N&O additional questions, “as promptly as possible.”

‘Utter lawlessness’

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest called the removal of the statues Friday night “utter lawlessness” in a news release Saturday morning. He is running against Cooper, a Democrat, for governor this November. He said Cooper deserves blame for the police not stopping the protesters.

“Last night’s destruction occurred on state property, right next to his office,” Forest said. “It is clear that Gov. Cooper is either incapable of upholding law and order, or worse, encouraging this behavior.”

Former Gov. Pat McCrory, the Republican Cooper defeated in 2016, tweeted Friday night that it was “disgusting to watch” the protesters tearing down the statues.

In 2015, McCrory signed a law, backed by the Republican-led General Assembly, that essentially banned the removal of Confederate statues.

The News & Observer previously reported that the law was passed as a response to increasing calls to take down Silent Sam, the Confederate statue on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus that protesters eventually took down in 2018.

The 2015 law passed the N.C. Senate unanimously. But then a white supremacist named Dylann Roof killed nine Black churchgoers in South Carolina, which led to increased attention on Confederate symbols nationally. When the bill then went to the N.C. House, it had become a partisan issue. Only two Democrats voted for it — one of whom, Rep. William Brisson, has since changed parties to become a Republican.

The Confederate statues have again received renewed attention following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Asking for the removal of Confederate statues has been one of protesters’ calls to action.

On Monday, the N.C. Senate voted unanimously to spend $4 million on two African American monuments downtown, one at the state Capitol building and one near the governor’s mansion. It’s now at the N.C. House awaiting final approval. Cooper and Republican legislative leaders have previously voiced support for the project, the N&O reported

No curfew planned

Mayor Baldwin said she “believes these statues should come down.”

“What is happening today is the right thing for us to do and the governor to do for history and public safety.” she said. “But if we ever needed any evidence that this was a public safety issue, last night was it. That was my biggest concern. That somebody was going to be hurt.”

There are no Confederate monuments on city-owned property, but a statue of Josephus Daniels, former publisher of The News & Observer and lifelong white supremacist, was removed from Nash Square earlier this week. Nash Square is owned by the state but is maintained by the city of Raleigh, Baldwin said. The Daniels family owns the statue and removed it.

The city is not considering issuing another curfew, she said. A curfew was issued for about a week after protests following Floyd’s death turned destructive in Raleigh. The first two nights of protests — May 30 and 31 — began peaceful but became destructive after law enforcement fired tear gas, foam bullets and pepper spray and looters ransacked downtown businesses. Nightly peaceful protests in Raleigh have continued with few arrests.

In a Facebook group focused on local politics, Raleigh Council member David Cox wrote he agrees with the removal of the statues and the “time is long overdue for change.” But he supported removing the statues through a “democratic process.”

“We must be consistent and recognize that someone acting randomly for good can easily be another person acting randomly for harm,” Cox said. “Random people taking justice into their own hands is not sustainable. We must work through our democratic process. To do otherwise risks the very freedom and liberty that we all want and love.”

An interesting article in today's newspaper

'An alley without exit.' Experts worry COVID-19 among Latinos will get dire without support

Like many Central American immigrants, José Cruz Hernández had lived for decades in the United States. He built a life first in California and then settled in North Carolina with his wife, Irma Ramos. They raised their three adolescent children in Asheboro.

A month into the novel coronavirus pandemic, Irma and her husband caught the virus that causes COVID-19, an acute respiratory illness. She’s not sure if she got it in the furniture factory where she works — where she said at least five of her co-workers had tested positive. Taking Tylenol and resting for two weeks, she recovered, but her husband didn’t.

After fighting for his life in a Greensboro hospital for about 40 days, José, who was born in El Salvador, died Monday from pneumonia. He was 57 years old.

“He had high blood pressure and diabetes,” Ramos said, who twice took her husband to a hospital, where he was told to take pain relievers and rest at home, before he was finally admitted to a hospital.

Ramos and her husband do not have legal immigration status. Ramos said she believes her husband didn’t receive immediate help because he didn’t have medical insurance and didn’t speak English well. At times, her 14-year-old son had to serve as translator.

“I don’t want anyone to have go through that, to not be assisted because of racism,” she said in Spanish in an interview with reporters. “The first thing they asked us was if we had insurance. If they had hospitalized him sooner (José) would still be here with us.”

Ramos hadn’t seen her husband since May 7 before last week, when she said goodbye to him in the hospital.

José’s death and Irma’s illness weren’t isolated cases in Randolph County where they live. There, Latinos make up the majority of COVID-19 cases at 60% of total cases, according to the county’s health department.

Tracking the virus

Over three months into the pandemic, Latinos, or Hispanics, are being disproportionately struck by COVID-19 infections in North Carolina. As of mid-June, they make up just over 14,000 of positive cases — 44% of the nearly 30,000 cases for which ethnicity is known, according to state health officials.

That is a dramatic overrepresentation in infections, since Latinos are only 9.3% of the state’s population.

Those statistics follow national trends. Infections among Latinos are more disproportional than African Americans, who make up 26% of total cases but are 22% of the state population.

The disproportionate figures aren’t across the board: As of Wednesday, Latinos only accounted for 85 coronavirus-related deaths, at 8% of the total. That was less than African Americans, who tallied 377 deaths, or 33% of the total, while they are 22% of the population.

According to the APM Research Lab, the national trends on deaths by race and ethnicity are 1 in 1,625 African Americans; 1 in 2,775 Indigenous Americans; 1 in 3,550 Latino Americans; 1 in 3,800 Asian Americans; and 1 in 3,800 white Americans.

The state’s total number of cases topped 51,000 as of noon Saturday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The DHHS doesn’t track virus cases by race and ethnicity by county, and officials don’t mandate that local health departments disclose those figures. Some counties report this on their websites or through requests made by reporters, but the information from the majority of the state’s 100 counties isn’t available. Officials cite privacy concerns, a lack of capacity to constantly update and publish that data, or they’re simply not tracking it.

Leaders of various Latino advocacy organizations took part in a recent conference call organized by Duke University addressing the topic with health experts, according to a report by Enlace Latino NC, an independent news organization that produces public-service journalism in Spanish. Organizations expressed disappointment at the lack of a more timely and targeted campaign to help the at-risk Latino community.

“I respectfully believe that the (state government) had been keeping this data from the public in a way so that there isn’t a stigma against them and blame wouldn’t be put on the Latino,” Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi said in Spanish. Martinez-Bianchi serves on the state’s marginalized population task force and is a Duke Health doctor. “But at the same time it’s a problem, because it’s necessary to protect (the community) through data.”

After pressure and concerns from various groups and Hispanic media, Cohen said Tuesday in a Facebook Live interview with the organization Isla NC that this week the DHHS will be publishing all known Latino cases by county.

“The data of race and ethnicity in COVID-19 are useful to support the direction and improve testing and efforts for treatment,” said Dr. Krista Perreira, a professor at the UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, in an interview with The News & Observer of Raleigh and Enlace Latino NC.

Perreira said at the same time that the state should work to protect the identities of victims, particularly in counties with small populations of Latinos.

Her UNC colleague Dr. Crystal Wiley Cené, who studies racial and social health disparities, said the state “absolutely” has the responsibility to publish this data.

“The virus is invisible,” Cené said. “The data is how we can see it.”

A survey of the corresponding health departments of all 100 counties by The News & Observer and Enlace Latino NC collected data on coronavirus among Latinos from 46 counties. Information from the remaining 54 counties was either not provided or health departments did not respond to requests for it.

The North Carolina counties in question

In rural and urban North Carolina counties alike, the number of total virus cases in the county infects more Latinos than the portion of their population in those counties.

The highest rates are found in urban counties because of the density and size of their populations. There are:

  • Almost 1,500 cases in Forsyth (68% of all county cases), the highest portion per population size in North Carolina.
  • Almost 1,000 cases in Wake (36% of cases).
  • Almost 2,000 in Durham (61% of cases).
  • More than 2,500 in Mecklenburg (36% of cases).

In each of these four counties, Latinos are less than 14% of the population.

The same is found in rural and suburban counties although they have fewer cases.

Two examples are Chatham and Robeson counties, where Latinos are nearly half of total cases. The poultry- and meat-processing plants there, whose coronavirus outbreaks have been significant, are the employers of many Latino immigrants.

COVID-19 cases in the ZIP codes of meat-processing plants in those counties have increased dramatically, The News & Observer reported. Illness among workers has contributed to infection among the community.

The risk is large to immigrant families, who often live in multigenerational housing. The News & Observer reported that a Sanford poultry-plant worker infected family members and died from complications related to the virus. Telemundo Charlotte reported a similar instance for a Robeson County family.

“I was handing out free face masks outside of Compare Foods and Gaama Foods,” said Yesenia Solorio, 35, a Winston-Salem resident and Mexican immigrant in Forsyth County. “There were a lot of people who weren’t interested and they said, ‘No, I’m fine, thanks.’”

Solorio said she believes that ignorance and lack of information within the community has contributed to the fact that Latinos are the majority of cases there in Forsyth County and the reason it has the highest proportion of Latinos with coronavirus of any county in the state.

In Guilford, Latinos make up 8% of the population and 13% of the COVID-19 cases.

Reasons for disparities

How did the outbreak in Latino communities get to this point?

Susan Clifford, administrator of the Orange County Immigrant and Refugee Health Program, cites several factors.

“Housing, the environment, access to health, access to healthy food, employment opportunities, and also language, immigration and racism and discrimination,” Clifford said.

“All of these factors create an environment in which Latino communities are most at risk of catching and getting sick from the coronavirus.”

In North Carolina, much of the Latino population works in industries where remote work is not an option and paid sick leave or vacation isn’t guaranteed.

Moreover, those industries can be more hazardous and provide no health insurance, including some agriculture, meat-processing plants, domestic work or construction businesses.

Outbreaks have already infected many immigrant farmworkers in the state, according to previous News & Observer reports.

“Families with undocumented members may also feel more pressure to work even in dangerous circumstances while feeling sick because they cannot receive unemployment or the stimulus check from the federal government because they do not qualify,” Clifford added. “All of this creates an environment of inequity where they are more likely to get sick.”

The Greensboro- and Winston-Salem-based LliBott health clinics that work to tackle health barriers for the Latino population are even busier during the pandemic.

“It is very important that in a health provider, Latino patient culture is understood,” Gabriel Bottazzi, the chief executive officer of LliBott clinics, said in an interview. “To diagnose many of the medical conditions, you have to know our history and our traditions.”

LliBott tries to avoid barriers that Latinos often encounter in other practices: the high costs of health services, the lack of Spanish-speaking and Latino doctors, and the requirement of documents that immigrants who are living in the country illegally do not have. LliBott has also set up a mobile health clinic outside of the popular Latino market International Foods in south Raleigh.

“We as Hispanics, whether working class or professionals, have very different preventive health habits than here in the United States,” said Bottazzi, who was raised in Honduras. “The concept of going to the doctor when you are not sick is not common in Latin America.”

Racism as a health crisis

Health care and access to it are often a source of structural racism in the United States, according to UNC’s Cené.

Although being Latino is an ethnicity and not a race, Latinos can be of various races and still experience much of the same racism that African American people face.

“I have been saying very often that racism as a virus is more virulent, killing more people than COVID-19 has done or will do,” Cené said.

Like African Americans, Latinos experience social determinants of health — including underlying health conditions — from economic and educational inequality stemming from structural racism in the United States.

Over time, exposure to inequalities such as minimal access to health, low education rates and lack of immigration documents to obtain health insurance or federal assistance can harm health or even kill a Latino person, Cené said.

Latino immigrants like José and Irma have known these factors: They carry out essential activities, but they receive low wages and no benefits.

“I know we should stay home,” Irma had told The News & Observer and Enlace Latino NC in an interview, “but for communities like ours, that is difficult. ... We must work at whatever cost.”

Cené said that one of her patients at the internal medicine clinic in Chapel Hill was a 40-year-old Latina woman with coronavirus symptoms who didn’t have legal status.

As such, she was afraid to go to the hospital and provide her personal information. She died at home before being tested for the coronavirus.

“There are unique challenges with undocumented status that exacerbate existing disparities,” Cené said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

The disproportion surfaced months ago: On April 6 of the 1,542 cases that reported ethnicity, Latinos totaled 8%, according to previous Enlace Latino NC reporting. On Tuesday, they numbered 13,142, 44% of the 29,844 who have reported their ethnicity, a figure that may be higher considering that in at least 15,000 cases ethnicity has not been reported.

Between April and June the rate of increase in Latino cases has been nearly 800%. In the same time frame, cases increased in African Americans by 668%.

It wasn’t until June 4 that Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 143 to address the health disparities that have led to the disproportion in infections in Blacks and Latinos. The order established a task force focusing on historically marginalized populations.

Among the specific measures, it ordered the DHHS to guarantee that all communities have access to COVID-19 tests and related medical care.

In addition, it instructs the Office of Public Participation to increase awareness of virus aid services and resources and to provide education to eliminate disparities.

‘Viruses do not discriminate’

In a survey conducted by the Latino advocacy group Siembra NC among the Latino community in Forsyth, Wake, Durham, Orange, Alamance, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Randolph counties, only 13% received some form of federal government assistance.

Laura Garduño, a Siembra NC organizer, said the community will reach an “alley without exit” if it doesn’t get support.

The situation will worsen, Garduño said, if the state government does not take real measures that help the community, such as universal health insurance, financial support, tests, masks and unemployment benefits for all.

“The virus does not discriminate,” she said. “For all people it does not matter if they have Social Security numbers or not, we are all exposed to contracting the virus.”

“Our lives are connected and the support that the state needs to give must be universal so that all people can take necessary steps to protect ourselves and protect the population in the state,” Garduño added.

“If that is left out of the existing options, avoiding contagion will also be impossible.”