Spotting Injustice In the Moment

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.

About Pastor Craig

I'm a 54-year-old who lives in Los Angeles, CA with his black Labrador Retriever named Max. I'm an ordained clergy person in the United Church of Christ. My passions include spirituality, politics, and sports (Go Houston teams, go!). I use my blog to start conversations rather than merely spout my perspectives and opinions. I hope you'll post a question, comment, or observation for me to respond - so we can get the conversation started!
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2 Responses to Spotting Injustice In the Moment

  1. Cheri Moore says:

    Spokane has a large population of Pacific Islanders, especially Marshallese, and their rate of Covid infection is easily 3 times that of the white population here. Yet it is harder for them to access both testing, care, and vaccines. Some of this is cultural and much is economic. The economic piece is playing out across cultural boundaries here as many who are uninsured or underinsured are have a tough time getting the care they need. Testing and vaccines are free, at least at some locations, but it seems like only those with solid health insurance manage to get the vaccines in a timely manner. It’s a frustration to me and yet I feel powerless in this instance to help.

  2. Beverly Marshall Saling says:

    I think part of the problem is our failure to understand that issues of racial disparity in policing, in vaccination distribution, and in many other areas all go back largely to the same root cause: that our systems for everything are set up with white people as the default, yet we refuse to acknowledge that this makes them racist. Even when we make an attempt to measure the fairness of a system (which we mostly don’t), we judge it by its intent and whether “the rules” are applied equitably rather than by whether they result in equitable outcomes. So these systems chug along meeting white people’s needs, often at the expense of BIPOC, and if anybody questions that we’re told BIPOC are asking for “special treatment” and it’s not fair.

    In policing this plays out as a system set up to default to white people as the people being protected and served and BIPOC as the people they are protected from. In vaccine distribution, it plays out as a system set up to default to white people at the expense of anyone who doesn’t live in a white neighborhood and have resources that are more common among white people (insurance, English language proficiency, Internet access, the time to spend researching how to get vaccinated, the ability to get off work at a designated time, etc). Every time we set up systems like this, we then act shocked and surprised that the results show racial disparities and flail around for how to fix it without ever asking the people it’s hurting how it could be changed to work for them.

    If we want to catch this stuff while it’s happening, or better yet prevent it in the first place, we need to give BIPOC enough power in creating, monitoring, and revamping our systems that they can ensure they don’t default to white folks and that their fairness is measured by outcome, not intent. We white folks have demonstrated over and over than we’re not up to the task.

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