The not-so-soft bigotry of COVID indifference

Reviewing the data and history pandemic discrimination, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the majority of America has concluded that these groups—the poor, the minority, the imprisoned, and the elderly—are the “acceptable” losses. Were the situation reversed and the white, middle aged, and middle/upper classes the primary victims of the pandemic—one of the features of the 1918 influenza—COVID-19 would be a true national emergency and there would be far less complaining about disrupted schools, work, and social life brought about by social distancing requirements and economic shutdowns. That social reciprocity has broken down to this degree ought to be an embarrassment and shame to us all.

The message seems to be that Americans have abandoned e pluribus unum (out of many, one) for “everyone—or at least every group—for themselves.” Pro-lifers have for decades protested American indifference to the deaths of millions of unborn children (another invisible and voiceless minority), and they have been right to do so. Where are these champions of human life when other weak and vulnerable populations are dying at the rate of a thousand a week or more? Make no mistake: when the pandemic finally recedes, people will remember whether it was their lives and dignity that were “essential” or just their labor on behalf of those who had the privilege of working from home.

Coronavirus is not something that can be hand-waved away as “someone else’s problem.” Whether outbreaks are in major agricultural centers, nursing homes, minority-heavy border regions, prisons, or anywhere else they should concern us all. Think about that the next time you decide not to socially distance, attend a rally or protest, or outright refuse to wear a mask that might spare another person illness or death. The health and well-being you’re endangering might turn out to be your own.