“This virus doesn’t discriminate”

I’m sure many of you have been hearing these words on the news from medical professionals.  And thankfully, as we write this on April 8, we are beginning to hear deeper analyses on the racial disparities embedded in this crisis, where something IS discriminating.

From Milwaukee we hear that “26% of the population is Black, and 80% of the COVID19 deaths” are Black individuals.  From Chicago we hear that 30% of the population is Black; 52% of those who have contracted, and 68% of those who have died from COVID19 are Black individuals.

‘Underlying conditions’, which increase the likelihood of death from COVID19, are more prevalent in the Black community.  Centuries of chronic low access to health care, and to bias-free health care, have resulted in higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, and cardiac disease in Black communities.  And these underlying conditions appear to make an individual more likely to die from this virus.

We are hearing reports that testing materials and processing are differentially available in Black and Brown communities, compared to white communities.

A much higher percentage of Black and Brown individuals are in positions of employment that are considered essential during the crisis. So they have frequent persistent exposure.  A much higher percentage are hourly wage, and are not continuing to receive their salary during the shut down.

The structural inequities that were present in our systems of privilege before coronavirus, have now exploded into ever-more-deadly dynamics.

“Taking care of Me”

We are also witnessing a cultural struggle in the tension between individualism and community well-being.  Buying extra toilet paper is individualism.  Having my doctor-brother write me a prescription for hydroxychloroquine ‘just in case’, when lupus patients need it available now, is individualism.  These examples also represent a scarcity worldview.

We see so many efforts to shift our strategies and interventions to a lens of ‘what’s good for the community’, and away from ‘what’s best for one individual’ – mostly out of necessity – which is remarkable to witness.  And yet we know that in times of high stress, each of us tend to revert to our most familiar patterns – and taking care of me first is one of those familiar patterns in white culture.  Living into our antiracism values, in this case finding ways that I personally can notice and shift my individualistic living and thinking, becomes more challenging when issues of danger present themselves.

Each one of us can only change us.  Our congregation can work to change our congregation.  We can work to raise awareness in others, but we cannot reach inside of them and change them.  We invite you to be watchful of your own language and choices.  Get good at noticing your own fears, hold them gently, and learn to soothe them.  And, yes, then go out there and change the world as well.

May all beings be safe,
Liis Lahti
Nadine Godin-Nassaney
Carolyn Heineman

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