COVID and the Color Line: Race, Religion, and Public Health

Jul 30, 2020
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Shawnee Daniels-SykesMount Mary University

Yolanda WilsonHoward University

Vincent LloydVillanova University

Utibe R. EsseinUniversity of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

A conversation with Yolonda Wilson (Howard University), Shawnee Daniels-Sykes (Mount Mary University), and Utibe Essein (University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine), moderated by Vincent Lloyd (Villanova University). Co-organized with the International Academy for Bioethical Inquiry.

Cosponsored by America Media and the Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics

Free and open to the public. The event will be held online over Zoom and will be livestreamed on YouTube.


COVID-19 has been described as a great equalizer, affecting all Americans alike. Yet, data collected throughout the pandemic has revealed startling disparities, particularly with communities of color being disproportionately impacted by the virus, suffering from both higher infection rates and higher death rates. What are the roots of these asymmetries? How do economics, politics, and issues of healthcare—including how racial preconceptions have historically impacted medical treatment and public health policy—contribute? What resources do we have within our communities and within our religious traditions to respond? Join for an interdisciplinary panel of philosophers, public health experts, and theological ethicists as we seek to understand and respond to COVID and the color line. 

Shawnee M. Daniels-Sykes is Professor of Theology at Mount Mary University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A Registered Nurse by training, Dr. Daniels-Sykes received her doctorate from Marquette University in Religious Studies with a specialization in Theological Ethics and a sub-specialization in Bioethics. She is a faculty member in the Theology Collaborative for Ascension Health Care USA, where she teaches an online course on Moral Theology and Catholic Social Teaching for Ascension Health Care Executive Leaders. During the summers, she teaches the course Moral Questions in the Black Community at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. She is an author, and both a national and international speaker.

Yolonda Y. Wilson is assistant professor of philosophy at Howard University. A 2019-2020 fellow at the National Humanities Center and a 2019-2020 Encore Public Voices fellow, she holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Professor Wilson's research interests include bioethics, social and political philosophy, race theory, and feminist philosophy. She is broadly interested in the nature and limits of the state’s obligations to rectify historic and continuing injustice, particularly in the realm of health care, and is developing an account of justice that articulates specific requirements for racial justice in health care at the end of life.

Vincent Lloyd is associate professor of theology and religious studies, director of the African Studies Program, and co-editor of Political Theology at Villanova University. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. from Princeton University. Prof. Lloyd's research and teaching focus on philosophy of religion, religion and politics, and race. He is the author of several books, including Black Natural Law: Beyond Secularism and Multiculturalism (Oxford University Press, 2016) and Black Dignity: A Philosophy (Yale University Press, forthcoming), and is co-author of Break Every Yoke: Religion, Justice, and the Abolition of Prisons (Oxford University Press, 2019), with Joshua Dubler.

Utibe R. Essein  is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He received his M.D, From the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and an M.P.H. from the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health. In addition to training medical students and resident physicians in internal medicine, Dr. Essien is a health services researcher who conducts research on racial/ethnic health disparities. His specific focus is on the use of novel therapeutics and technologies in the management of chronic diseases and understanding mechanisms by which differences exist in their uptake and diffusion. He has published on the impact of food insecurity and housing instability on patients with diabetes, and on the influence of race/ethnicity on healthcare disparities, including in maternal health and in cardiovascular health and treatment. Dr. Essien is a Core Investigator in the VA Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP) and Director of the Career Education and Enhancement for Health Care Research Diversity Program for Medical Students (CEED II).