Did COVID-19 Increase Equity Issues?


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Have you heard people talk about how the silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic has been nature’s regeneration? It’s one of the ways people are trying to find the ‘positives’ in this otherwise terrible and dangerous time for so many. 

And yet, while this particular idea may be appealing, what it’s actually communicating is that we are comfortable with the disproportionately negative impact of coronavirus – on the lives of disabled people, the elderly and communities of colour, because of the pre-existing conditions produced by systems of oppression – because those of us who survive will receive the benefits of cleaner air and water. 

The logic of expendability is actually central to how oppressions operate. It tells us some people may need to suffer (always the same people over others!) because it’s natural and necessary for this other benefit to be made possible. This thinking is then used to legitimise what is done to certain groups of people in others’ interests. For example:

  • ‘We’ can only be safe if Muslims are surveilled. The idea that Muslim people are dangerous determines policy that actually sees Muslim people’s freedoms compromised by surveillance infringing on their movement through airports or on university campuses.
  • We can’t have working class people in a neighbourhood if it is to be considered ‘nice’. This thinking is at the heart of the gentrification process. Investment in an area – improvements to its transport links, the green space made possible, availability of services and amenities – is conditional on certain people being pushed out (often by rising house prices) to be replaced by certain groups who are deserving of this betterment. 

The idea that our planet can only be healthy with the sacrifice of disabled people, people of colour, people made poor and working class people, for example, is a fallacy. 

It’s a false choice. 

Our planet can be healthy today, without the consequences of a pandemic’s differential harm for certain communities, when we make alternative collective choices. When we deploy regulatory models that reduce the plastic corporations dump into the sea, when we invest in renewable energy, or transform our food production methods to reduce their carbon emissions, among countless other ways. 

Outcomes that implicitly rely on throwing certain communities under the bus must be a no-go in any pursuit of equity. An alternative to the logic of expendability is always possible.

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