COVID-19 and the Inhumanity of Whiteness
Since the pandemic has started to surge in white countries across the globe, we have seen the casual disposability of non-conforming bodies. And by non-conforming, I mean Black people, womxn, fat people, disabled people, anyone who does not fit into the white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy’s ideal of a useful and worthy human. I’ve seen medical guidelines determining who should receive treatment and for how long. I’ve seen people try to rationalize and justify not treating people. “They’re too old” or fat or have too many other medical issues. I’ve seen people debate the value of people’s lives and justify letting them die. I say “them” but I mean me because I am a fat, Black womxn and people like me are expected to die to preserve the status quo by saving those who embody it.
It’s amazing watching the disconnect. We’ve heard the eugenics dog whistle that’s been sounding for months – “the disease is only really affecting older americans,” they said. “They should be willing to sacrifice themselves to save the country,” they said. The push to end, or in some states never begin sheltering in place was rampant in late March, once we began to experience the tangible impact on the economy. The way the administration framed this would lead you to believe that Congress was comprised of young people but 45 is 73. Mitch McConnel is 78 years old. Mike Pence is 60. A lot of these people in power are old, and thereby at risk of severe illness should they get the virus. They aren’t worried about this, though because they have access to care and expertise that we don’t. That’s the whole purpose of power – to dictate what others can do while doing whatever you want and being protected in the process.
We are watching what’s happening with this virus – the people who are impacted because white people with power have continually ignored entire swaths of the population until they needed something from them. We see this on the small scale every election season when suddenly our politics matter to get their chosen candidate in office. And despite being a small percentage of the population, we are somehow blamed when their glaringly mediocre candidate loses. The reality is that white people and non-Black People of Color do not care what Black people think unless they can profit from it or control it to serve their own interests. We are either a commodity or a casualty for whiteness and much of the world reflects that. The casual racism expressed globally as white people openly discuss “testing” vaccines in African countries because our deaths are acceptable in their quests to save white people.
We are being hit with wave after wave of this dehumanizing shit. And every conversation is framing it to ask who has it worse. Motherfuck that. This isn’t about who has it worse. It’s all fucking bad. All of it. And somehow this shit has to change. But it won’t because we’re too busy jockeying for fastest sellout for the illusion of safety while those who have no margin for error are fucking dying in the service of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
I don’t know how to make this clear to you but white people across the globe want Black people, poor people, disabled people, fat people, homeless people, LGBTQIA+ individuals, NBPoCs, and many others I cannot think of at the moment, to die. They want us to die. They know that we will be hit harder and faster than other populations and are okay with that. We have been carefully positioned as and maintained as the canary in the coal mine for white people and our deaths are acceptable sacrifices for their comfort. Our roles in service level jobs that are underpaid but are necessary both for the business and the people seeking those services to operate keep us dependent on an infrastructure designed to kill us. The care for employees isn’t even part of the discussion as the purchase of protective equipment, despite lacking a living wage and healthcare, is the employee’s responsibility. As profits became endangered, most service employees were the first ones sacrificed “for the survival of the business.” Fuck their economic stability; people are dying!
For many white people, the coronavirus is a convenient solution to an inconvenient problem, a solution that keeps them from getting their hands dirty while “cleaning up” a societal problem they’ve wanted gone for a while. They sit at home, while many of us who don’t fit their demographic of humanity perish. After, they’ll get to write the narrative of how we, the marginalized, engineered our own destruction by failing to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. They get to alleviate themselves of the guilt of gentrification, redlining, exploitative labor practices, etc. because the few people left to speak out about it will be too busy scraping together a life in the wreckage of this pandemic. As we speak, healthcare workers are being silenced, indigenous lands are being confiscated, states are outlawing abortion, people in prison are barely being tested or are being left to die, intentionally insufficient unemployment systems are crashing, the government is refusing to aid states while outbidding their attempts to get supplies, the “stimulus bill” is a bullshit bailout for corporations, and that buffoon in office is pursuing personal vendettas against those who criticize his ineptitude while demanding that state officials kiss his ass to receive help.
They have been circling the wagons for months. From dumping stock to stealing masks, we see white people with money and power solidifying their places and protecting themselves, at the expense of everyone else. We see them hiring friends and relatives regardless of the delays it causes for the public. The federal government is hoarding supplies that by their own words are not intended for the states.
Because, as with everything, those with money, power, and access will buy their safety and comfort with our lives while hoping few of us will be around to remind them of who and what they truly are. Our deaths erase the shame of whiteness and so many white people seek this absolution. It’s easier to lie when evidence of that lie is buried six feet under. And they justify this inhumane bullshit with one word: profit. Our lives and our deaths equal their profit
Life is reserved for those most likely to re-enter the workforce with minimal immediate and long-term cost. Death is preferable for those who need more immediate and possible on-going care, those who are not currently in the workforce, and those who probably will not return to the workforce. The value of our lives is contingent on how productive we are to society. Once you factor in the multiple ways we rank humanity (race, age, size, intelligence, ability, ability/desire to procreate) you see a society completely comfortable letting people die “for the greater good” of white supremacist patriarchal capitalism. The horrors we are willing to tolerate in the name of this mission have only grown more visible and egregious under this administration and we the people continue to let it happen.
This is not the world I want to live in and yet, I don’t want to die.
Covid-19 starkly exposes the social hierarchy of disposability and the hellscape that is white supremacist patriarchal capitalism continues.
Stay safe. Stay strong. All of us ain’t gonna make it but we are going to try.
I am a fan of direct giving during these times. When I can, I donate money directly into the hands of people who need it. There are also organizations that do the same. One such organization is Vox Noire, founded by Creighton Leigh. She sends groceries and money to Black people in need and helps them retain housing, flee dangerous situations, and survive in the fuckery that is white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
At this time, Vox Noire is hosting a GoFundMe for Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color families impacted by this virus. Please donate if you can.
If you appreciate or learned from this essay, please feel free to compensate me by contributing to my Paypal or CashApp. You can contribute any amount you want at any time:
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