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Dr. Breanna Boppre, Wichita State University Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, talks via Zoom during the Nov. 12 Researching the Pandemic Series. Boppre was joined by Dr. Robert Weems Jr., Wichita State Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History, to discuss social inequality in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Panel series finale features experts' takes on social inequality - pandemic relations
A pair Wichita State experts in their respective disciplines offered their take on social inequality in respect to the COVID-19 pandemic to finish out University Libraries' three-part virtual panel series. The final panel featured Dr. Robert Weems Jr., Wichita State Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History, and Dr. Breanna Boppre, Wichita State Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice. The event was moderated by University subject librarians. 

Both Weems and Boppre discussed how the global pandemic has affected minority populations and incarcerated persons within the United States.

"Largely, what goes on in prisons in a non-pandemic era - there is already a lack of transparency, and many of these individuals are out of sight, out of mind," Boppre said. "They are located in prisons that are symbolically located away from our community and largely what goes on in those prisons is not well known to the public.

"What we do know about incarcerated settings is that conditions are more conducive to the spread and to health complications from coronavirus. That is due to these conditions where it is literally impossible to social distance. Often in prisons, including Lansing Prison here in Kansas, there are dorm-like settings where it is bunk beds in an open room and it makes really impossible to stop the spread of the disease."

Focusing on African American history, Weems noted that America's black population have dealt with centuries of issues related to inequality such as access to health care, access to proper housing, and disproportionate levels of incarceration. These inequalities have been exasperated in the era of the pandemic.

"It all comes down to this basic point of, historically, black lives have really not mattered," Weems said. "We have seen ongoing manifestations of that. When you look at the history, it is not coincidental that we see this disparate proportion of African Americans being affected by COVID-19 than others. There are a variety of other diseases that that, if you look at it, we see African Americans being disproportionately affected. Is this all just a coincidence? History suggests no and that it is a manifestation of long-standing systemic racism."

The full Zoom recording, along with the other two panels, can be viewed at


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