No, We Are Not in This Together

Holden Rierson

While it is nice to believe that this virus is bringing people together, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the present and near future, Americans in the poorest neighborhoods are going to be infected and die at higher rates than anyone else because the connection between susceptibility and income is linear. If we talk about reduced access to health care, less agency to stay home, being 10% likelier to develop a chronic health issue, and additionally developing it on average 5-15 years earlier, we barely scratch the surface on the depths of the American class system.

Some have called this pandemic “the Great Equalizer.” I will be honest with you, writing that I laughed out loud. Because as it continues on into May and then summer, more and more Americans will have their benefits taken away, be evicted, lose jobs entirely, and the gap between rich and poor will widen. This compounds the fact that America already was recording a steadily growing, all-time high in wealth disparities coming into 2020. Government aid packages, mortgage suspensions, donations from those able to give will scarcely counteract these built-in disparities. Without acknowledgment and counteraction of the economic, political and health care systems that made this virus into a pandemic, the root causes of class inequality beyond COVID-19 will remain unchanged. 

The capitalist system is made to rest on the exploitation of the many and the profit of the few. The same Americans who denounce progressive taxation, national health care, and a raised minimum wage call service workers their “heroes” and make them risk their lives for, in Illinois, $9.25/hour–crystalizing the hypocrisy of the American elite. To only “care” about the people you prosper from when it is convenient–or like the billion-dollar Jo-Ann Fabrics chains who are now having workers make masks solely to claim they are “essential businesses”, when it is profitable- is immoral. How can we justify the total disregard of the American government (and the business empires and health care conglomerates that buy it out) for the average American? How can we put the weight of this disease on those who America abuses at every opportunity possible including this one? Why have we just accepted that this will destroy some and be a “stay-cation” for others?

Speaking of “stay-cations”, celebrity reactions to the virus are a gross insight into the lunacy of wealth. They will be fine. Maybe they will use this time to “reflect on themselves.” Or perhaps, preach to the masses: It is an absolute spit in the face to say that, “This is tough… We’ll get through it together” when there is no we. They will not die. They will not have to work. After this is “all over,” they won’t have to deal with economic fallout that will sustain itself for months, years. There is no We.

It is here that I would like to pause. While socioeconomic class is a defining aspect of how this time will affect individuals, income is far from the only influence. People of color, chiefly Black Americans, have been and are going to continue to die at expedited rates because of the endless ways that we perpetuate racial resource inequality in our legislation, culture, and monetary systems. Additionally, hate crimes against Asian-Americans have surged for the first time in decades under the bigoted, xenophobic myth of a “Chinese virus”. Looking back to the financial world, there are tax-paying immigrants being excluded from aid packages across the nation because of their citizenship status. For Americans who face an intersection of challenges, like being a woman of color without socioeconomic privilege, the obstacles will only be magnified.

But you know this. These facts should not come as a surprise. That different communities are experiencing this differently and that America was already facing a class crisis is common knowledge. Not everyone in the upper-class is an abusive, merciless white man (though it is overwhelmingly white). But with privilege always comes the option of ignorance. Latin is one of the richest schools in the 8th most economically unequal city in America. Meaning, a lot of us Romans don’t have to care about these problems because we’ll never have to face or even acknowledge them.

But you should. You should care that Latin, on the whole, is not living in the same America as everyone else. You should care that three men together hold more wealth than half of all Americans combined. It’s fine, good to believe in the freedom to earn, I do too. But that should be applied to everyone.

Health care is a human right. So understand that we have normalized tiering human rights.

Please go donate blood.

Holden Rierson

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