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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

COVID, Masks, And Race–Mandate Politics At Their Worst

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Early on during the COVID epidemic, cities struggled with ‘equity’.  How could they assure that both wealthy white neighborhoods and poor black ones would be equally treated?  In one major metropolitan city the municipality struggled with this issue more than most because the city was still as racially divided as South Africa was during apartheid.  

East of Longridge Parkway the neighborhoods were all black; west of it all white.  Wards to the east were almost 100 percent black, while wards to the west were almost all white; and not surprisingly social indicators were consistent with such racial divisions.  The poorest, blackest wards had the highest rates of crime, delinquency, drugs, poor academic performance, and single-parent families; while the wealthy white wards had just the opposite.

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It was not surprising, therefore that when the  COVID vaccine became available in the city the overwhelming demand came from white wards.  Highly educated, professional, and ambitious residents were the first to line up; and in the first weeks that the COVID vaccination website was open to all, most slots were taken by them.  

This was not surprising.  White ward residents knew the importance of the vaccine, had no qualms or reservations about it; no worries about autism, mind control, or deep state conspiracies.

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On the other hand residents east of the Parkway and south of the Alhambra River, had other things to worry about.  Drive-by shootings, a resurgence in drug-related violence, and gang-related murders were endemic.  Single mothers, pregnant, abandoned, and left with young children, turned to grandmothers for child care and the city for welfare and other ‘supplemental support’.  COVID, therefore, was never high on anyone’s list of priorities.

As a result, demand for the vaccine was desultory at best.  While coverage rates in white wards increased exponentially, those in black wards remained sluggish and stagnant.

In a stark, racially-motivated move, the City Council decided to rectify the situation by penalizing white wards and giving preferential access to black ones. Preventing whites from commandeering all the vaccine in the city would give blacks a greater chance of protection.  

The Mayor of course denied any racial preferences, and argued that the inequity was due to epidemiology.  Those wards with high levels of mortality, morbidity, and predisposing factors to immune system failure were to be prioritized. 

Residents of white neighborhoods called foul, charging unconstitutional arrogation of municipal authority and discrimination against those who follow the rules – masks, social distancing, testing – and who consequently had far fewer COVID infections. 

Be that as it may, said the City, one cannot ignore the unacceptable morbidity that contributes to COVID infection in minority wards.   We are being epidemiologically sound by prioritizing those districts of the city with the greatest health needs.

Disingenuous and racially motivated, replied white residents. ‘We are not healthy by accident’, they said, ‘ but have been deliberate and persistent in managing our physical well-being.  Why should we be penalized for such positive behavior?’

‘Racism’, shouted the most radical city officials.  ‘White privilege at best and white oppression at worst’, they said.   ‘It is because of you white people that the black man still suffers.  Social dysfunction is your problem, not his.  We will act on his behalf, favor him, prioritize him, protect him from your racist, white hegemonic, destructive ways.  Your privilege comes on the back of the black man.  This will not stand’.

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Of course, white residents quickly figured out how to skirt the demonstrably racist policies of the city government; and found that hospitals accepted former patients for vaccinations without question or criteria.  Most residents of white wards had been treated at area hospitals at one time or another, so vaccinations came early and easily; but the hostility against the city administration remained.  It is one thing to be politically attentive to your constituency; another thing to favor it with entitlements and walking-around money; but another thing entirely to baldly, hypocritically, and unashamedly to distort foundational principles of racial equality and use race as a deciding factor in public administration.

The flap died down once vaccines became universally available.  Website sign-ups, waitlists, and priorities were things of the past.  Anyone who wanted a shot could get one often without appointment at walk-in drug store clinics. 

Yet despite this now universal access, the vaccination rates in the black, minority wards of the city were less than half that of white.  Recent data from the District of Columbia, a comparable city, show that vaccination rates in majority black Ward 8 are half that of those in majority white Ward 3 (approximately 25 percent vs 50 percent).  Clearly the reasons for low vaccine uptake had nothing to do with problems of ‘access’, as claimed by the government, but to systemic dysfunctionality.

Similar statistics show a high correlation between low vaccination rates and high rate of hospitalization and infection.  It is clear that the unvaccinated are the cause of the continued spread of the disease.  They are giving each other the infection.

Because of a stated concern for the rapid spread of the Delta Variant, the City Council issued a mask mandate.  All those who enter public and private buildings in the city must wear masks, a setback to the renewed social and economic life of the city.  

A spokesperson for the Council said that it issued the restraining order ‘to protect all citizens of this great city’, but such a statement was a raw distortion of the truth.  The mask mandate was issued only to protect the unvaccinated – those who persistently and irresponsibly have refused to get the shot – and because the unvaccinated in the city were overwhelmingly black, her mask mandate was a transparent, baldly political reprise of the city’s racial policies of a year ago.

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New Delta variant-inspired mask mandates are senseless at best.  Vaccinated people rarely, and only rarely give each other breakthrough infections, and if infected, their illness is minor.  If unvaccinated people want to take the chance of infecting each other, it is up to them.  There is no need whatsoever to subject responsible, vaccinated residents to such restrictions.

It is again no surprise that mask mandates are favored by liberal Democratic jurisdictions.  Progressives reject the principle of personal responsibility as a criterion for policy.  The unvaccinated, regardless of their social and moral dereliction, must be protected in an ‘inclusive’ society.  When race is added to progressive fallacy, it is the perfect storm.  The racial policies of vaccination and mask mandates, popular and seemingly universal in all Democratic-run cities are divisive, unnecessary, and self-serving.   Mask mandates will be remembered as a pernicious by-product of the entire pandemic experience.

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