"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Are You White? - Negotiating ‘Racial Disparities’, The Politics Of ‘Systemic Racism” And The COVID Vaccine

There are two boxes to check on the vaccine paperwork of a major metropolitan American city.  Are you black, Latino, or non-Latino white? asked the first;  and are you Black, Caucasian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, or other? asked the second.  The City wanted to prioritize residents by their ‘ethnicity’. Minorities were to get first priority after a Councilmember pointed out that,  “White, privileged residents of the city are exploiting black folk, taking their vaccines.  This blatant racism must be stopped.”

She overlooked the fact that low vaccine registration in the the black wards had much to do with vaccine diffidence if not outright anti-vaxxer defiance.  The disproportionately high rates of vaccine appointments from white ward applicants were thanks to their wish to get vaccinated as soon as possible for self- and community protection.

Image result for images black anti vaxxers

“Doesn’t matter”, said the Councilmembers who had consistently endorsed the notion of white, systemic racism.  “More vaccine for poor black folk, and be done with it”.

When the Council had to backtrack after word of what appeared to be reverse racism had gotten out, they claimed that they were only addressing disparities in health outcomes. What they meant was that those  residents in greatest risk from COVID and greatest danger of death or debilitating illness would  be given first vaccine priority. 

Residents of Wards A and B cried foul. They were not obese, were not drug users, paid due attention to diet and well-being, and were not inheritors of the lifestyle diseases that contributed to weakened immune systems as those in minority wards.   Why should they be penalized for doing everything right?

The Council shot back a rebuttal.  White racism, oppression, and capitalist marginalization of the poor have forced black people to suffer; and as part of atonement and racial restitution and reparation white people should give up their place in line. 

“Racial disparity is a principal concern of this city” said the facilitator at a vaccine clinic, “so even though you do not see a place to indicate your ethnicity, please indicate it at the top of the form”.

“What do you mean by ethnicity?”, an older white  resident very much out of his element in this all-black Safeway clinic asked.

“You’re white”, she said. “Just put that”.

This rankled most of the whites who had trekked across the city into the most violent, and dangerous ward of the city to get what they thought was their right, and whispers in the foyer and outside in the driving rain expressed their resentment and anger.

Statistics showed that adherence to CDC and City guidelines concerning masks, social distancing, and voluntary quarantine was disproportionately low in minority neighborhoods; and data on COVID infection rates confirmed that the rate of infection in black areas was up to three times that of those in white. 

“Systemic racism”, shouted Councilmembers and their progressive white supporters. Because of white exploitation, manipulation, and deliberate oppression, black people had been deprived of educational and economic opportunity, so it was no wonder that they had not acquired the information or experience to fend for themselves in the majority world.

This is where the racial rubber hit the road.  After years of progressive support for minority rights and attacks on  the undue white privilege of wealthy Americans, the shoe was on the other foot. Whether deliberate or incidental, white liberals in the city felt marginalized.  They were a minority in cities like Washington, DC which had become one of the most militant regarding racial disparities and COVID, and they saw anti-white rhetoric in an era  of free-flow of information and democratic freedoms as unconscionable.

One conservative member of Congress had gone so far as to say that the white, privileged, elite populations of the District and other major metropolitan American cities, should get the vaccine first.  The residents of Upper Northwest Washington, Chevy Chase and Bethesda, MD and the near in suburbs of Fairfax County, VA – those who contribute most in taxes, who run the federal government, who are high-ranking directors and officials of Washington think tanks and not for profit foundations; and who as lawyers, lobbyists, doctors, researchers, and academics contribute disproportionately more to the commonweal than any resident of outlying wards and countries should be at the top of the list.

Of course he was shouted down by the Democratic majority.  How could he speak such racist invective?  How could he dismiss in a wave of his perfumed, lace-cuffed, bejeweled hand, the marginalized, the poor, and the oppressed?  Even his Republican colleagues hesitated.  To even suggest responsibility for social and economic ills in a progressive age was tantamount to political exile.

The outspoken member of Congress was Hamiltonian to the core – a man who distrusted the majority, a cajoled, pampered lot which swayed with the wind, talked of compassion and fairness, but had no idea of the meaning of democratic equality.  Equal opportunity, said Hamilton, was the fundamental principle of federalist democracy.  Government was organized to protect, promote, and defend a man’s absolute right to better himself; but was never conceived to intervene in that competitive, necessary process.

Image result for Images Alex Hamilton. Size: 174 x 204. Source: blog.nyhistory.org

The progressive juggernaut precludes any such thing, of course.  There is an ipso facto rightness of the underclass.  it is not just that some groups of society are temporarily isolated, unfairly judged against, and left to manage; but that there  is an inherent moral value to their victim status-hood.

History, of course, tells as different story.  Italian immigrants in the early Twentieth Century were for decades ‘wops, dagos, and greasers’ – denied employment and recognition; shunted aside;  but ‘victim’ was never in their lexicon. Theirs was a bloodline to ancient Rome and empire.

The fundamental principle of the American Republic is evolution through rebellion, refusal, and competitive fight.

So conservatives thought they had every reason to feel slighted by municipal governments’ radical racial politics for they are the ones who hew to Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian federalism.  They are the ones who espouse originalist Constitutional principles.  They are the ones who champion Jacksonian nationalism and the internationalist reason of Adams.

It took COVID to get race finally out in the open.  It took weeks of frustration and anger for progressive Washingtonians to realize the street-level nature of racial discrimination now that they were targeted. 

There are few progressives who spent frustrated hours online for a relatively few white COVID appointments, and who had to travel to crime-ridden neighborhoods still as progressive as they were before.

‘Inclusivity’ has been put to the test during COVID and failed.  We are a more racially divided, justifiably angry nation than we ever were.  It will only get worse.

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