The Unbearable Racism of COVID
The media like to say that "COVID has struck minorities harder than other races" or, as the Washington Post has it, COVID "ravages" minorities rather than other races. This is a loaded and utterly dishonest statement, and one with racist undertones to boot.
First of all, COVID is not an agent that decides to "ravage" one race rather than another. Actually, COVID does not "ravage" anyone. One contracts COVID, as one would any other disease, and one does so in a number of ways and situations.
Second, there's that word "minorities." By this the media do not mean minorities in the sense of those who constitute a minority of the population, as do all races, depending upon how and where they are counted. What they mean are blacks and Hispanics, but primarily blacks. And among blacks, they do not mean IBM executives or sports billionaires — they mean poor blacks. The media goes out of its way to find individuals of partially African descent who are unsuccessful, and it then claims they are the victims of "systemic racism."
In truth, they are no more "victims" than is any one of us. Every person alive has faced challenges. Some have faced them and surmounted them; others have not. Some find a convenient excuse for failure in their race or sex.
Third, there is that phrase "other races." That vague specification really means whites — and Asians, if we want to add that, but mainly whites. And again, not all whites. It means "privileged" whites, which is again a lie, and racist as well. If one inherits a great deal of money, one may be "privileged," I suppose, though not in the sense most people imagine. The rich have their own problems, sometimes more challenging than those of persons of average means. It is said that Donald Trump was given millions in loans from his father and uncle (somewhere between one million and sixty million, the latter figure coming from the New York Times), but he worked tirelessly to increase that amount to billions, and he then labored as president to make his country stronger and more prosperous. In terms of what he has accomplished, he was not privileged at all.
Most white Americans who have been attacked with that word "privilege" are not privileged, either. They were not born with any great material advantage over blacks or Hispanics. As they grew up, they applied themselves; graduated from high school and, in most cases, from college or other post–high school training; found a job, and worked their way up. They have become financially secure due to hard work and self-discipline, qualities than some members of "minorities" (and non-minorities) possess and some do not.
But COVID does not "decide" to "strike" minorities, regardless of whether they have applied themselves or not. Individuals contract diseases, sometimes even if they have been extremely careful. Not so long ago, it was said that God chose to rain down illness on those who sinned. That statement is both inaccurate and uncharitable. The idea that COVID has chosen to strike minorities rather than whites is even more ridiculous.
In a recent study in France, the richest 10% were shown to be twice as likely to contract COVID as the poorest 10%, presumably because they are more mobile and encounter more contacts. If those data transfer to America, the entire idea that the poor suffer to a greater extent may turn out to be a hoax. Articles that appeared at the beginning of the pandemic, such as those that showed higher rates of infection among blacks, may have lacked the rigor or data of more recent studies. One study showed that death rates from COVID were twice as high among blacks as among whites, and that Hispanic deaths were higher as well. Yet that study was admittedly based on "early data" from NYC alone.
There are even those who harbor the theory that whites and Asians have somehow caused blacks to contract COVID (and other diseases, including AIDS, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and cancer) at higher rates, again due to the effects of "systemic racism." And that whites are responsible for the higher rate at which blacks — again, poor blacks — commit and die of murder. Victimhood theories of this kind have a long history, going back at least to the 1960s, and, as Ben Shapiro shows in The Authoritarian Moment and other books, they have always been wrong.
And finally, there is the implication that, since society is somehow responsible for higher rates of COVID among blacks, there must be reparations. Thus Biden's proposal, when supplies of the vaccine were limited, that blacks should be given the vaccine first, ahead of whites and even ahead of elderly or compromised whites.
Thus, a simple statement like "COVID has struck minorities harder than other races" has been shown to be false, ill intended, and racist. The correct form of that statement would be this: "the incidence of COVID has at times been higher among some groups of blacks, Hispanics, and other racial groupings (Native Americans, Pacific Islanders) than among whites and Asians." As with AIDS, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and violent death, the reasons for this higher incidence are multiple and complex. They include the behavior of blacks but also the environment in which poor blacks live and the cultural habits they have inherited. But none of them is the "fault" of whites or other races.
If anything, officials have gone out of their way to get poor blacks vaccinated — more so, in fact, than they have for poor whites. When they get sick, blacks receive the same treatments as whites. Those blacks who die often have compromising conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer, just as whites do. None of these compromising conditions is the fault of whites. One becomes obese as a result of eating too much food and too much of the wrong kind of food, among other reasons, including lack of exercise.
When writing about important matters such as COVID, the media should be precise and truthful in their use of language. Unfortunately, in all too many cases, those who write for the national media do not wish to be precise and truthful. They wish to lie, and often for reasons that are racially motivated.
Orwell was correct when in Politics and the English Language he wrote of the "swindles and perversions" of political language. The liberal media have politicized COVID from the start, and they continue to do so. But as is already happening, lying and racism will discredit the traditional mainstream media, and other forms of media will take their place. The liberal media are destroying themselves, and all because they cannot bring themselves to tell the plain truth: in this case, that COVID does not "strike" or "ravage" minorities.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).