The Rev. Marlyn Bussey

The Rev. Marlyn Bussey

It has been said that when America gets a cold, Black America gets the flu. Never has this statement been more true than during the current COVID-19 pandemic. And while it’s easy to believe that if people chose to take their health seriously, pull themselves out of poverty and get health insurance, they’d be OK, in truth, the issue is far more complex.

Black people have dealt with layers of inequity from the time we were brought to the shores of this country. Human exploitation and health inequity typifies the black experience in America. Medical experimentation in the antebellum and post-antebellum periods was the norm. By the mid-19th century, African Americans were convinced that Western medicine represented pain, punishment and humiliation. Medical experimentation continued well into the 20th century and there are still medical issues that give African Americans valid reason for concern. Why, for instance, is the infant mortality rate for black babies more than twice the rate of other racial groups, with double the risk of dying before their first birthday? Why are there gaps in health insurance coverage, uneven access to services and poorer health outcomes for the African American community than for any other ethnic group though, despite popular opinion, most have health insurance coverage? Cultural history creates cultural DNA and the mistrust of the medical community is not a product of fear but of negative, lived experience.

In addition, the disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 virus in the African American community has been directly tied to underlying conditions that affect this community in greater percentages, such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma. When medical treatment is sought, these patients are too often not properly treated. Two cases in point. Serena Williams, who holds 23 Grand Slam tennis titles, was not taken seriously when after childbirth, she complained of shortness of breath. Knowing her own medical history and the fact that blood clots almost took her life in 2011, she alerted a nurse and asked for a CT scan and blood thinner, but the nurse offered pain medication instead. Only after insisting, did a doctor test her and discovered several blood clots in her lungs. She was put on a heparin drip immediately. On March 20, 2020, a 30-year-old African American teacher sought emergency medical assistance because she was having trouble breathing. Though she went to the emergency room twice with the same complaint, her concerns were dismissed. She was assured it was just a panic attack, and she was sent home. It turned out that Rana Mungin had contracted the coronavirus in mid-March and by the time she was finally admitted and put on a ventilator, the virus had taken its toll. This young woman died on April 27, 2020, because her health concerns were not taken seriously.

The National Council of Churches recently published a COVID-19 statement in which it stated “The pandemic has uncovered the systemic racism and classism that is intrinsically part of our national DNA and has shined a light on the vast disparities in our health care system. Large cities are reporting that over 70% of reported deaths are of African Americans. A grossly disproportionate number of people of color are suffering and dying from COVID-19 because of the systematic poverty and racism that plagues our society. We reiterate our determination as a council to work to end racism.” This virus has forced to the forefront what black people have known for eons: that celebrity doesn’t matter, social status doesn’t matter, financial wealth doesn’t matter. As African Americans, our health concerns are discounted, and this is a major contributing factor to the disproportionate number of deaths due to the current pandemic.

What can be done to resolve the racial, economic and health inequities that continue to be barriers for African Americans? I believe seeking justice is the key. The divinely inspired words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoken in 1963 remain instructive for all people of goodwill: “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for a nation to overlook the urgency of this moment.” We are in a moment that is crying out for change.

Only we can create that change. Are we willing to work for the change that, at last, creates justice for all?

The Rev. Marlyn Bussey is the co-director of the Peninsula Solidarity Cohort, a group of 35 spiritual leaders from diverse traditions working to “leverage moral power for the common good” in San Mateo County. She is also the pastor of St. James AME Zion Church in San Mateo.

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(18) comments


Thank you Rev. Bussey for this testimony!


Let the county know your opinions they work for us!,,,


At the time I am writing this I see four comments about Rev. Marlyn Bussey and her article. Two of them ramble on with their usual better than everyone white superiority complex comments and two of them write about the issue. Rev. Bussey is certainly not trying to divide the country along racial or religious lines.

The "Divider in Chief", President Donald Trump and his devoted follower, Moscow Mitch McConnell have being doing everything in their power to divide the country. Everyone knows you have to ban Muslims because they are all terrorists. You have to build a wall because all Mexicans are rapists and murderers. We want immigrants to come to America as long as they are white and from northern Europe. No, Rev. Bussey is not trying to divide the country but "some very good people" are.

Terence Y

Reverend Bussey, I present Exhibit Number 1 as to why you should vote for Trump and Republicans. When you have someone who hates President Trump more than he loves America, as Mr. Amaral does, do you really think Mr. Amaral will do anything to remove barriers? The hatred and fake news from Mr. Amaral's comment shows he would rather expend more energy destroying America than he is willing to create change and justice for all.


Sorry Terence, I was repeating what your very stable genius said. Those are not my thoughts. Remember, if you like your fantasy world you can live in it. If you like your lies you can believe them.



I was interrupted earlier this afternoon and didn't get a chance to refresh your memory.

June 16, 2015, "When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best," Trump said. "They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Jan 27, 2017 to follow up on a campaign promise to ban Muslims, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that banned foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the country for 90 days, suspended entry to the country of all Syrian refugees indefinitely, and prohibited any other refugees from coming into the country for 120 days.

Jan 11, 2018 When lawmakers presented to President Trump on Thursday the idea of restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as part of a bipartisan immigration bill, the president reportedly replied: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”, the president then suggested the U.S. should admit more immigrants from places like Norway.

No I don't think Rev. Bussey will vote for Trump.

Terence Y

Reverend Bussey, you ask what can be done to resolve the racial, economic and health inequities that continue to be barriers for African Americans? Things will not happen overnight, but one of the first steps would be to have African Americans begin voting for President Trump and Republicans. A Republican president prevailed in the Civil War, more Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act than Democrats, and President Trump lowered the unemployment rate for African Americans to one of their lowest rates in history, in addition to passing the First Step Act (affecting African Americans more than other groups). So let's begin taking steps to resolve issues for African Americans by voting for a President and a political party that will help to remove barriers.


Yeah vote for Trump--the man who said, "Look at my African American over here. Look at him."

Terence Y

GT, from the sarcastic tone of your comment, it sounds like you also want to divide the country.


Terrence--the country is already divided thanks to Trump. I only quoted him directly. It's pretty funny how you insult people, make up cute little acronyms, and quote politicians you don't care for--but if someone else does it you get all haughty and call them un-American. You are a true hypocrite.

Terence Y

GT, pot, kettle, kettle, pot. If I insult people and am being hypocritical, it's only because I'm channeling my inner Democrat and doing unto others as they have done unto me. The country is divided because a number of people hate Trump more than they love America. Just look at the ridiculous impeachment and Russian collusion hoaxes which I get the feeling you fell for. By the way, thanks for appreciating my acronyms. Stay healthy, my friend.

Dirk van Ulden

She is just an ordinary race baiter, likely learned from her mentors Jackson and Sharpton who have made a killing blaming everything on everyone except themselves. No Rev. Bussey, I do not feel guilty and your anecdotal stories about how black folk are treated by the medical profession can just as easily be found for the other races and ethnic groups who live here. Please preach unity instead of diversity.


Hello Dirk, I apologize for not reading your comment in detail yesterday, your line about Jackson and Sharpton blaming everything on everyone but themselves in particular. I have never seen a more perfect description of your golden boy, (ooops orange boy) Donald Trump. Not only does he blame everyone else he even admitted it when he said I take no responsibility.

Dirk van Ulden

You make a good point but two wrongs don't make one right.

Christopher Conway

One thing that Covid 19 has shown us that this virus does not discriminate. Please don't make this pandemic and excuse to divide our country along racial lines. The reverend is not going to let this crisis go without the opportunity to push her agenda. We are all in this together, try to tune out any of the racial animus and division being thrown out there by the usual suspects.


How I know Rev. Busby, is that she has "put feet to her faith", that is compassion and justice not only lives within the walls of the faith house, it also must be in the streets and community. Not really sure what Mr. Conway is calling an agenda, my clarity is Rev. Busby's clear focus on giving what is needed. Like seniors, there are sensitive populations affected, including Black folk.


Agree. She's telling the truth. There is a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. African Americans are almost twice as likely to be uninsured, and in all age groups they were more likely than whites to report not being able to see a doctor because of cost. So, I don't think the reverend is dividing our country along racial lines at all. Mr. Conway's allegations are what divides the country.

Christopher Conway

Her agenda is using race to divide our community. Don't know what your having difficulty understanding, seems pretty clear to me

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