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Covid-19 is a disaster for everyone… except straight white men?

Frank Furedi
Frank Furedi

is an author and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte

is an author and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte

Covid-19 is a disaster for everyone… except straight white men?
Even a global catastrophe like Covid-19 has not discouraged identity-entrepreneurs from continuing to draw attention to their cause. Instead of coming together in a common struggle, they seek to exploit Covid-19 for their own end.

There was a time when a deathly disaster like the current pandemic would lead competing interests and parties to leave their differences to one side in order to support one another against a common enemy. That’s not how things work today. Many identity-mongers simply cannot resist the temptation of turning the pandemic into a platform for their politics.

Anyone reading the numerous feminist posts complaining that women are bearing the brunt of the pandemic would imagine that men are having a great time during the lockdown. According to one account, the coronavirus is a “disaster for feminism”. An interesting observation, given the fact that statistics indicate that men are more likely to die from it than women. At a time when tens of thousands of human beings have lost their lives, the author of this last observation warns that “across the world, women’s independence will be a silent victim of the pandemic.” Advocates of feminist identity politics refer to the pandemic as a “gendered crisis” that, according to Australian senator Mehreen Faruqi, carries a “disproportionate risk” to women. It is unlikely that people like Faruqi would use the term ‘gendered crisis’ if a pandemic represented a “disproportionate” risk to men.

Predictably, the pandemic has not only been gendered but also racialized. Apparently, it is not just women who are bearing its brunt. “If coronavirus doesn’t discriminate, how come black people are bearing the brunt?”, asks The Guardian commenter Afua Hirsch.

The racialization of the pandemic is particularly prevalent in the United States, where former presidential candidates Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have demanded that the  Center for Disease Control investigate doctors’ “implicit biases.” The implication conveyed by their statement is that the bigotries of health professionals are somehow responsible for putting black patients at a disadvantage.

In reality, if the proportion of African-Americans dying from Covid-19 is higher than that of whites, it is because of their dire economic circumstances rather than because of any biases among the medical profession. The group overlap between ‘the blacks’ and ‘the poor’ is a reality that cannot be ignored, but lumping it together with general ‘bias’ to make it about race is just dishonest.

The racialization of the pandemic has inevitably led to holding white people, particularly ‘white male privilege’ responsible for the tragic catastrophe haunting the world. Writing in this vein in Salon, an angry foe of ‘racist white voters’ contends that “white male privilege is literally making America sick”! Other opponents of white privilege fear that“social distancing could lead to a spike in white nationalism”. As this racialization of the pandemic gains greater momentum, it is only a matter of time before Covid-19 will be rebranded as the White Virus. Some already claim that“The White Male Is The Biggest Risk In Spreading The Virus”. According to the author of this idiotic statement, elderly white men are a public health nuisance.

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Trans activists have also jumped on the ‘we are bearing the brunt’ bandwagon. A headline in VICE complains“As Hospitals Prepare for Covid-19, Life-Saving Trans Surgeries Are Delayed”. Though it acknowledges that “medical facilities may soon become overtaxed for everyone,” it bemoans that “transgender people’s care can be treated as ‘non-essential.’” According to one source, the current pandemic is “perilous” for LGBTQ people who do not live in “very supportive” households. Perilous for LGBTQ people? In case it escaped the attention of this writer, the coronavirus is perilous for everyone.

If all the different accounts put forward by different groups of identity entrepreneurs are to be believed, with the exception of white heterosexual men, just about everyone is bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

Sadly, identity obsessions prevent people from seeing the big picture. Throughout human history, disasters have always had a differential impact on communities. But these differences are not identity-based, nor are they driven by it. What matters is the availability of –and access to– the resources that are necessary to survive in a crisis, as well as the tangible physical disadvantages that make one less likely to survive infection. That is why it is the poor and the elderly who bear the brunt of Covid-19. The current obsession with identity distracts attention from providing special assistance to those that not only really need it but also deserve it.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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