WHY is Covid Killing People of Colour? (BBC1, Tuesday of last week) delivered far more than its title promised: no less than a profound indictment of our society and its structures. The actor David Harewood was deeply engaged with his journey of discovery, as stage after stage related directly to his own experience.
The bare statistics are shocking enough: people of colour make up 14 per cent of the UK population, and yet make up 34 per cent of all Covid intensive-care patients — and a far higher proportion of deaths. The biological differences are too minor to account for such significant imbalance: Vitamin D deficiency may possibly play a part, but it is only a small factor among many.
Far more significant is the number of BAME patients with underlying symptoms that already weaken the immune system: diabetes, hypertension, etc. But Harewood was determined to find out what lay behind that — and in every case the answer was: poverty. Poor housing, poor diet, and unrewarding and uncertain menial work all create a far higher likelihood of contracting life-threatening conditions.
But the most shocking revelation was the reason for that poverty. The evidence piled up inexorably: the imbalance is the continued stain of sheer racial prejudice. Black people are simultaneously considered difficult and demanding, so less deserving of attention; and better able to bear pain, so their symptoms can be overlooked. Black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white.
Prejudice lies deep in the NHS itself, 63 per cent of whose staff are BAME (so the service could not begin to function without them); they typically received far less effective PPE than their white colleagues. They are less likely to complain, because they cannot afford to lose their jobs; if they do speak up, they are more likely to be ignored or sidelined. The most chilling statistic is that, of all the doctors who have died, 95 per cent were BAME. This higher mortality cannot be because of personal poverty; but, even at this high professional level, they suffer degrading prejudice. There is support for the thesis that the sustained oppression of racist prejudice actually weakens the immune system: racism kills you.
Further condemnation of the British way of life animated Max Clifford: The fall of a tabloid king (Channel 4, Monday of last week). It had two moral centres: first, the troubling testimony of the young women whom he groomed to satisfy his sexual appetites, and the sickening blackmail that he threatened if they dared suggest they might expose him; and, second, the sordid collusion of Fleet Street.
He created an unassailable position in the tabloids whose circulation demanded the lurid revelations (frequently invented without factual basis) that he supplied them with; even worse was the way in which the serious media danced to his tune, treating him as a lovable rogue rather than a source of destructive evil, soiling everything that he touched.