One of the most insidious dimensions of having power and privilege is that you often can’t see one’s power and privilege in the moment. This is particularly true when we are in a moment of crisis. In the moment of crises, we unconsciously (or in some cases, consciously) tap into our power and privilege when our survival instinct kicks in. It’s when we have the luxury of looking back from our position of safety that we bother to deconstruct the injustice of how things played out.
I’ve known this to be true for many years. I am seeing a powerful example of this play out now right before my eyes. Let me tell you what I’m talking about.
Last spring and summer – in the days following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor – people understandably and rightfully took to the streets to protest the long-standing pattern whereby some law enforcement figures targeted Black Americans in the use of excessive violence. The refrain was that we need to look at systemic expressions of racism and address them.
“Absolutely!” I would agree.
But did we mean ALL forms of systemic racial injustice, or just those forms involving the police …
Fast forward seven months to the rollout of the COVID vaccine.
The early numbers indicate we are currently experiencing a profound racial imbalance in those who are receiving the first doses of the vaccine. There was a great article in the Los Angeles Times today (sadly tucked away in Section B rather than the front page) that discussed the racial disparity in those receiving COVID vaccinations. They cited a statistic that indicated the rate of Latino deaths (40 deaths per 100,000) is nearly three times that of whites (13 deaths per 100,000)!
There are a lot of systemic factors that play into it. Access to health care via health insurance and access to technology that speeds up the sign-up process being just two of the factors.
What amazes me is that so many people who talked about the importance of addressing systemic racial injustice when it came to one issue (police reform) are now looking the other way when it comes to another racial injustice (health care access) in order to benefit from the injustice.
Of course, the matter of COVID vaccines isn’t the only way this manifests itself. Sadly, there are so many areas of our society where it is so difficult to see one’s power and privilege when we are in the midst of a crisis.
I wanted to share my thoughts on this matter as a way of provoking us (myself included!) to be more aware of our power and privilege in the moment. For while it is important to protest injustices after they occur – it can be even more powerful to identify those injustices while they are happening and refuse to participate in them.