COVID-19 and racism: Two pandemics
COVID-19 is a terrible disease. It has affected all of us, infected too many, and caused the death of far too many Americans and people around the world. In the U.S. alone the death toll now exceeds 200,000.
The pandemic has changed the way we live. Every day, in so many ways, our lives are different. We have all been forced to curtail most of our “normal” activities. Work has disappeared for many. Others of us have had to retool ourselves to work remotely or to find different work. Wearing a mask and social distancing are new norms; unfortunately, they are not universally practiced.
We are all experiencing degrees of apprehension and vulnerability. We cannot go where we want or do what we want without evaluating the people around us. Should I tempt fate by going into the store or restaurant? Am I likely to be infected if I shop here or eat in a restaurant with someone who is not a family member? We greet each other with some suspicion even on the street. How can I know for sure that I will not be a victim of someone else’s careless conduct? Even if I have done everything I should to protect myself, someone else can put me in harm’s way. These are constant fears and concerns we all share. And, regrettably, there is no end in sight to this awful pandemic.
The coronavirus creates a novel experience for the privileged among us accustomed to our interactions with the world without fear and few limitations. Now imagine that this fear is a constant in your life and that interactions in the world are not always within your control.
As we confront the COVID-19 pandemic and note its effect on our lives, perhaps we should think about how persons of color are affected in their daily lives by racism. The vulnerability, fear, and trepidation experienced by persons of color are not dissimilar, I suggest, from what we are experiencing during the pandemic. Think of yourself for a moment as a person of color dealing with the pervasive nature of racism in your everyday life. Think of yourself dealing with racism throughout your entire life, as well as your parents, grandparents, and other family members.
Like COVID-19, racism is invisible, vicious, and harmful in so many ways. We can think of it as a social virus. We cannot protect ourselves from COVID-19 without heeding the medical professionals’ advice to guide our social behavior. If we follow such guidance we will be protected. Similarly, we cannot cure ourselves of racism, personal or systemic, without assistance. The assistance we need to curb racism and to overcome this social virus is joining together in a community response. With such effort, we do have the ability to curb racism. Isn’t it time we tried to do so? The Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice exists to end the virus of racism and to heal our community. Please join us in this effort. Contact the alliance at www.SDARJ.org.