The Virus Isnt Racist but Our Society Is
Understanding systemic racism is of vital importance right now
The day I really began to understand how bad COVID19 was when the South By Southwest conference decided to cancel/postpone. That conference is huge and tickets are expensive AF, yo. So when they made the announcement to stop it all, I was staring at my screen with eyes wide open, recognizing something isn’t normal here. This is not just like the flu.
But nothing prepared me for the realities of a stay home order. As a family we had to make decisions about my travel, about groceries/stocking, about my kiddo in daycare. The routine we had established as a family was being undone before our eyes, and we knew that would be far easier than the realities of loneliness, isolation, anxiety and fear. As all of this loomed before us, I began to wonder- would my passion for racial justice be diminished in the midst of a pandemic? Would anyone want to hear about racial justice while figuring out how to survive against this virus. Would I want to talk about it? Read about it? Think about it?
Turns out, the pandemic has only compelled me further to honor Black lives and undermine white supremacy. As numerous news articles are now making clear- even though a virus is not racist (meaning it does not attack certain racial groups while leaving other racial groups alone). It does exploit the racist underpinnings of society.
Racial disparities in healthcare access, income, transportation access, housing, clean water, high wage jobs, food access, environmental justice and more are converging. The data is revealing that these racial justice issues don’t just matter in “normal” times; they also matter in the middle of a pandemic. If you dont understand how transportation access impacts food access, and how food access impacts dietary health, and how unhealthiness is exacerbated when your community lacks healthcare or you simply cant afford healthcare. I hope this makes sense, yall. The compounding nature of systemic injustice is being revealed (again).
If we believe that Black Lives Matter, we must continue to raise our voices over all of these issues. Our fight is not over. Our fight is not stalled. The reasons for our fight are being revealed. Society is seeing in very stark ways how inequality keeps certain populations defenseless.
It’s vital that we understand systemic racial injustice. For too many people the word racist is only applied to mean individuals. And while that certainly exists, that is not the crux of the racial disparity problem. The reason this is important, friends, is because when we don’t understand how systems perpetuate racial disparities, we instead blame Black people for the ways the virus is impacting us. Already on social media folks have said the following:
Maybe it’s because of Black peoples genetics.
Maybe it’s just their lifestyle, you know they don’t make good food choices.
Perhaps it’s the choices of Black people that’s causing this.
Friends, these are all racist statements, not because they are mean, but because every one of those statements implies that there is something wrong with Black people (as opposed to something being wrong with how this country treats Black people). The difference is imperative to know, because one will make Black people responsible for their own deaths and stall any calls for change. Being able to show why food access matters, and water access matters, and health care access matters, and on and on gives us opportunity to say, “we will all be better when we all have access to these things. These are human rights because no single racial group should be more susceptible than another racial group.
Race isn’t scientific. It isn’t real. So there is no scientific reason for Black people to die in greater numbers than our representation in society. The only reason for the disparity is because racial injustice limits the options of Black people to remain safe, sheltered, protected and cared for.
May your concern for racial justice be renewed. These are anxious times and I’m not asking you to reprioritize your life. I am asking that you remember that your antiracism work is important. It was important before and it remains important now.
I’m grateful to be in this together with you.
Below I have listed a few articles that I hope will be helpful as more data is released.
*typos exist to prove your love and grace unto me*