Dispatch #65 April 30th 2020
Day 1266 Post-Ascendency of White Supremacy & Misogyny
Day 1194 Post-Installation of White-Supremacist-Misogynist-Pussy-Grabbing-Self-Aggrandizing-Demagogic-Bully-Illegitimate-PeeeOTUS & his White-Nationalist-Fascistic-Christian-Supremacist-Quislings
That so many people will suffer so much in the richest country in the world reveals once again the stunning institutional inequities driven by white supremacy, misogyny, and unfettered capitalism. Movement leaders and public health activists are organizing to demand that this pandemic moment be wielded to tear down these structural intentional injustices and to call out these inequities as human rights violations. Dispatch #63 from the War on Women
In 2005 – when Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans and up the Mississippi Gulf Coast and many thousands of people were left to languish in a football stadium without food, water, bathrooms – we hoped/believed that this very public reckoning with the brutal and merciless consequences of America’s inequities would demand change. Surely we would not just continue with the status quo…..but, yeah, actually we did just that.
In her Washington Post column titled “What Truly Ails Us Isn’t Just a Virus” Petula Dvorak concludes thusly:
In a single day of reporting, I talked to an executive dad who has been loving telecommuting and the fact that he’s had dinner with his family every night for nearly four weeks — a first. And I also talked to a homeless mom whose big step forward — a new job and an apartment — completely fell apart after the business that just hired her shut down and her kids are now home from school.
Because the most dangerous thing we can do, the most wicked, amoral response will be to return to normal. www.washingtonpost.com/local/what-truly-ails-us-isnt-just-a-virus/2020/04/13/e00d4940-7da1-11ea-a3ee-13e1ae0a3571_story.html
As we are bombarded 24/7 with urgent reporting about rates of infection and death, shut-down of practically everything, imposition of social distancing and sheltering in place, healthcare workers laboring without PPE, tens of millions unemployed and unable to access benefits, heart-wrenching tragedies of lives lost – we must tutor ourselves to see and understand the culpability of America’s amoral norms. What are the essential issues?
Understanding that public health represents a core essential pillar of an equitable and just society is critical. Public health implements our collective commitment to the common value – equitable opportunity for good health. In her New York Times editorial titled “The U.S. Approach to Public Health: Neglect, Panic, Repeat” Jeneen Interlandi provides an informative overview of how and why the once strong and highly respected US public health system has been so severely weakened.
Across the same [20th] century that saw so many public health victories, public health itself fell victim to larger forces. “It was like a great forgetting took place,” Wendy Parmet, a public health law scholar at Northeastern University, told me. “As the memory of epidemics faded, individual rights became much more important than collective responsibility.” And as medicine grew more sophisticated, health began to be seen as purely a personal matter….. Health care spending grew by 52% in the past decade, while the budgets of local health departments shrank by as much as 24%. www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-public-health-system-us.html
Public health systems work to ameliorate the social determinants of health (SDOH) – aka your zip code determines your health. Public health leaders have long advocated for social justice and health equity lens as the key tool for dismantling structural inequities. So we cannot be surprised at the fate of public health. Restoring public health is foundational to dismantling America’s inequity norms.
I find Ed Yong’s reporting in The Atlantic detailed, incisive, blunt. These two articles, the first March 25th and the second April 14th, provide excellent assessment about the first few months of the pandemic as well an appraisal about what to expect as the summer months approach. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/ http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/04/pandemic-summer-coronavirus-reopening-back-normal/609940/
Data collection and analysis are now generating reporting about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 infections and deaths on vulnerable populations of black and brown people. These results are absolutely predictable and no surprise to anyone conversant with structural inequities that have always governed American society. Not enough of us are conversant with these dynamics – we need to educate ourselves and others.
Interdisciplinary Approach to Public Health Science (IAPHS) website hosts a blog titled Racism in the time of COVID-19. Six WOC scientists comprise the blog authors; the call to arms about the grave dangers posed by our inadequate public health response is urgent, grounded in science, and powerful…and should be widely read.
As this public health crisis unfolds in the U.S., it is making even more visible the interlocking systems of racism and marginalization that have their origins in the genocide of Native American peoples and enslavement of African peoples, which together constitute the foundation upon which the nation was built. Thus, while COVID-19 is indiscriminate in its transmission, its propagation within a society steeped in structural racism will undoubtedly, as we are already beginning to see, lead to disproportionate impacts among marginalized racial groups in this country.
While the basic public health recommendation of frequent hand-washing is low-cost and relatively accessible, Black, indigenous, and people of color are over-represented in racially and economically segregated communities with substandard housing conditions and unsafe drinking water that make hand hygiene more difficult. Additionally, without any universal protections against municipal water access being shut off for non-payment (or any other reasons), some may not even have access to running water. Moreover, if an individual contracts the virus, crowded housing conditions make self-isolation and quarantine virtually impossible, which leads to further transmission within families and communities. Finally, though social distancing is a scientifically-proven strategy to “flatten the curve”, it is nevertheless a privilege, and a strategy to which low-wage, “essential” workers, who are disproportionately people of color, have been unable to adhere to either because of being mandated to work (e.g., grocery store cashiers) or because of fear of lost wages or permanent unemployment.
Finally, as a field with a mandate to ensure the public’s health, efforts to mitigate the effects of this pandemic must work in tandem with our ongoing commitment to dismantling the structural and institutional drivers of health inequity that existed before this crisis. We have an ethical and moral responsibility to harness our collective strength, speak truth to power, and demand that racial equity and social justice be central to our response to this pandemic and beyond. The stakes are too high to sit on the sidelines. This is a matter of life and death and we must all act accordingly. https://iaphs.org/racism-in-the-time-of-covid-19/
So, PULEEZE, not one more story about how we are all in this together or how a few weeks of discomfort have plunged certain groups of Americans into loneliness, anxiety, and the need to bake bread at home. We are not all in this together…. yet.