Clamoring from citizens across the country for their states to lift its stay-at-home orders and to open up businesses, malls, parks and beaches is getting more boisterous each day. Those who feel most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus disease – COVID-19 – are moving with extreme caution, while others are ignoring social distancing guidelines and protesting mask-less for business to reopen as usual.
Front and center are large groups of mostly white people, and few others, captured by the media protesting in mass with signs and bullhorns outside of statehouses demanding legislators to lift orders and reopen immediately. They are part of a national ReOpen Movement that is defying the science about the spread and severity of COVID-19 and focusing more on the loss of income and quality of life affecting families since the pandemic warnings began in March. Their demands are growing and it is evident that city and state legislators are succumbing to the pressure.
This movement begs the question. Since reports have indicated that African Americans are being impacted disproportionately by COVID-19, do white people ostensibly feel safer? Is there some misperception that if they – white people – live, work and attend schools in disproportionately white communities, they are less likely to contract a virus that disproportionately impacts and kills Black people who live somewhere else?
That word, “disproportionately,” is critical and significant. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, told reporters not long ago that it is dangerous for COVID-19 to be classified as a Black disease. It will create a false sense of security among the general public, while Black people could be villainized for their susceptibility due to a history of comorbid conditions. Her prediction is playing out all across the U.S. while federal and local authorities warn that the virus is continuing to spread and taking lives.
There is no doubt that everyone is experiencing the pressure of being isolated in their spaces with nowhere to go and no one to interact with in person. The impact is devastating all across the board. It is an agonizing position to be in as a legislator, realizing that the safety and well-being of your constituents rest in your hands. But that’s why we elect them. And this pandemic will help us decide who among them must go.