It is a challenging thing to decide what to write about in the middle of this pandemic. How do I add to the thoughtful conversation already published by Real Change and in so many other outlets? The best I can do is amplify the voices of smarter and more eloquent people.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, the critical race feminist scholar who coined the term “intersectional feminism,” has had the wherewithal to host vital conversations exploring the inequalities this pandemic highlights: “Under the Blacklight: The Intersectional Vulnerabilities that COVID Lays Bare.”
In discussing the reality that people of color, particularly Black people, are dying at higher rates from COVID-19 (per Mother Jones in Chicago, Black people are 32 percent of the population, and 69 percent of the people who have died from the illness), Dorothy Roberts made the profound and yet obvious point:
“There is a common ideology in science, in general, that race and gender and its combination are risk factors. No, it’s racism and patriarchy that are the risk factors that Black women disproportionately experience. It’s not that we are the risk factors.”
This crisis is playing out unequally on so many levels. The people we pay low wages, marking them as expendable, are being defined as essential. Our societal structure means these people are drafted more than volunteering to be our heroes. They do not have the wealth to choose whether to come in to work, but must in order to survive, even if it ends up making them sick.
Elderly people, people with disabilities and people with underlying conditions or morbidities are the people, in the crisis of equipment, who are thought of as the most expendable. However, it is against the law to discriminate in providing treatment, but it is so prevalent right now that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had to issue a reminder.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and people all over the queer spectrum have long been discriminated against in medical treatment and in health insurance. Yet, some Christian fundamentalist groups would rather not serve anyone in this pandemic than have to provide services to the LGBTQ community.
We are seeing a continuation of the threats to our democracy. Instead of extending the deadline for mail-in ballots to be returned, even though many ballots had not even been sent to voters, Wisconsin’s Republican legislature insisted on an April 7 deadline. A decision upheld by four members of U.S. Supreme Court. Voters had to choose between their health and democracy.
Naomi Klein argues that in moments of crisis, the ideas that are available rise to be policies. Corporations are at the ready to weaken environmental and worker protections. She also points out that we are in a better place now than the 2008 recession. We have a $15/hour minimum wage movement. We have health care as a human right movement. We have an opportunity to create the world we want to see on the other side of this life-changing pandemic, but we have no time to waste.
Read more in the Apr. 15-21, 2020 issue.