This is Part I of a two-part series.
This is Part I of a two-part series.
“A rose is a rose is a rose.” Gertrude Stein
No matter what you call it–“pandemic” or, down the road, “endemic” (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/what-will-it-be-like-when-covid-19-becomes-endemic/ ), COVID is here to stay.
But until it becomes endemic, meaning it never disappears, but enough people become vaccinated to create “herd immunity,” the pandemic environment, mask wearing and booster shots, are likely to become routine. Like flu shots, they are here to stay. Face it, these conditions are the new normal, and we’d better learn to deal with them! (https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article257092702.html )
The idea that somehow things will go back to a pre-COVID “normal” state-of-affairs is a fallacy. After any major catastrophe, everything changes! And crisis recovery should be about establishing a new standard for what is “normal,” and adapting to the present conditions, rather than trying to reclaim something that no longer exists!
Also, denial will not solve or resolve anything. It’s the human equivalent of being an ostrich–sticking your head in the sand of denial or disbelief, and hoping that when you come up for air, that things will be like they were before.
Never happens–remember Dorothy and Alice? Once they returned from their journey to OZ and Wonderland respectively, both were very different people, and had to deal with how their experiences had changed them.
Like bad “ex’s”–husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, besties–we need to get over the past (e.g., pre-COVID), and stop romanticizing it.
Whose ‘Normal’ Are We Talking About?
Before COVID struck, the world was not a happy place for everyone. Now, people who had immense privilege before the pandemic are discovering that they are not immune. As a result, they hunger for a return to a moment in the past when their privilege mattered and made a difference.
Right now, they have become painfully aware that privilege protection is limited under COVID. When accompanied by stupidity–believing that you have so much wealth and power that COVID can’t touch you–the consequences can be disastrous. The proof is that those who consider themselves privileged and think every day rules of pandemic prevention don’t apply to them are getting COVID too–and some may die from it.
Even Stupidity Has Its Limits
Take Ben Carson, for example, a noted heart surgeon, but a terrible Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary, and clearly privileged; he contracted COVID, after paling around at an election watch party with the 45th White House staff, attending rallies unmasked, and hanging out with his boss–then President Trump–at staff meetings, still unmasked. (https://www.essence.com/news/ben-carson-covid-white-house/ ).
All of Carson’s medical training should have kicked in and his medical spider sense should have warned him that these actions were a bad idea.
After the fact, and to his limited credit, Carson acknowledged that it was his access that provided him the same treatment as the 45th–COVID privilege–and probably saved his life.
I’d like to see him share the news of his privilege at a rally of COVID survivors and the families and friends of hundreds of thousands COVID deceased, many whom could barely get a ventilator, much less have access to experimental drugs, because they lacked privilege!
In total, since COVID began in February 2020–the start of the announced pandemic, there have been 64,476,992 reported cases and 849,566 Americans have died. And, the bad news is that over 800,000 cases are being reported daily, according to the New York Times “Coronavirus in the U.S. Map and Case Count” (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html ).
Back in June, 2021, I reported that India had reached a health crisis of 400,000 deaths daily, and we needed to heed the warning. Also, one year ago on January 15, 2021, when we knew less about the Coronavirus, the number of daily cases was much lower–232,201 to be exact!
How is it that we know more about the virus today and how it spreads, and the number of cases are escalating. Also, we have no idea of how many unreported cases there are.
The COVID Disparity Gap
COVID has made visible the major fault lines in our culture that divide the “haves” from the “have nots” and the “privileged” from the “marginalized.” It has laid bare the false notion that we are a democratic society who cares. It is clear that access to good health care and services is not equitable–it seems only those with privilege and financial resources, like Dr. Ben Carson, and the 45th President, can count on getting the best medical attention and exposure to experimental drugs that keep them alive and healthy, even after they have made dumb mistakes.
Health Disparities and the Healthcare Divide, as uncovered by COVID, are real and can no longer be ignored. Cities, communities, politicians, social and healthcare service delivery systems can no longer fake white innocence and ignore structural racism, which are significant and very real variables that cause Black and Brown communities to be disproportionately and adversely vulnerable to COVID with imminent death or long-term impairment as consequences. We are Americans too. Black and Brown people deserve better.
Dismantling the Master’s House
The great Black lesbian feminist poet, Audre Lorde, once stated “The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s House.” She stated “…those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older–know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house (https://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Lorde_The_Masters_Tools.pdf ).
How then can we fix economic, health, and police systems that all inflict some form of violence — or major harm –on marginalized communities? How will institutional structures that have operated with impunity for creating gaps in healthcare delivery and other sectors like education, employment, police violence, sentencing in the justice system, and incarceration make amends to eradicate this structural violence? Clearly, their current (Master’s) tools cannot be used to dismantle the very system they created. Something radical and different is needed.
We have to ask ourselves as a society, not just if it even possible to dismantle the decades of oppression that have built up and reproduced generation after generation of traumatized people, inequality, and limited access to strategic resources, but is there a collective American will to do so?
Where does this country even begin to make reparations and repair the damage done to BIPOC individuals, families, and communities? What tools can it use to disrupt and dismantle its own systems?
(Part II next week)
(C)2022 Irma McClaurin
Irma McClaurin (http://irmamcclaurin.com/ https://twitter.com/mcclaurintweets) is the Culture and Education Editor and columnist for Insight News, an award-winning writer, activist anthropologist, the CEO of Irma McClaurin Solutions (IMS), and founder of the Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive (bit.ly/blkfemarchive) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her book, JustSpeak: Reflections on Race, Culture and Politics in America, is forthcoming in 2022.