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Privilege in the Age of Coronavirus

The term privilege refers to the various advantages that a person receives as a result of belonging to a particular social identity group. Privilege has existed for a long time and has contributed to structural inequalities in society. The Coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing social divisions and made them more eminent than usual. Although the virus affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, low-income communities have been disproportionately impacted due to persistent income disparities and the high cost of medical care.   

In the United States, “economic inequality is closely linked to a racial divide in income and wealth.” Poverty is more prevalent among Blacks and Latinos compared to Whites.The pandemic has had disastrous effects on people of color who were unemployed due to the permanent and temporary shutdown of businesses. During the height of the pandemic, “the unemployment rate was highest among Black Americans, at 6.7 percent, compared to 3.7 percent among White workers”. People working in low-wage jobs like retail and childcare were forced to return to work because their jobs could not be done remotely. Unfortunately, the majority of low-income jobs do not provide paid sick leave or health insurance, making people more vulnerable to Covid-19.

Access to healthcare has been a significant issue that has worsened throughout the pandemic. Although private insurance companies like Medicare and Medicaid have pledged to test patients for free, 28.6 million people don’t have any form of insurance in the U.S. Due to the constant fear of medical bills, low-income people are less likely to see a general practitioner or even go to the emergency room. Thus, they are at a disadvantage because the mortality rate is much higher if they have Covid. According to the APM research lab, as of March 2, 2021, about 179 Black people have died from the coronavirus compared to 150 Whites. The hospitalization rate is also higher for people of color because of the lack of access to healthcare, causing them to suffer from severe and long-term illnesses. Similarly, homeless Americans are enduring worse conditions as they are sharing facilities and lacking resources needed to prevent the spread of Covid. During times like these, many Americans have advantages that others do not, such as access to healthcare and a stable job.

Covid-19 has also had harmful effects on children in low-income families. When the pandemic closed schools in late March, nearly every district shifted to online learning. Although many students had no problems with online instruction, low-income students were negatively impacted. They were more likely to have unreliable internet, and some lacked devices, making learning nearly impossible. According to a survey conducted by the Times, low-income districts faced greater challenges when schools because they were unable to begin online learning. The lack of devices forced students to purchase computers and obtain internet access. Meanwhile, other districts that served more affluent communities “launched their online classes almost immediately, because their students had computers and internet access.” These inequities threaten to worsen the disparities in the education of students of color and low-income families, which can cause harm to a generation of children.

Privilege pervades all aspects of society, but it has been particularly apparent during the pandemic. Minorities face disadvantages in healthcare, housing, and socioeconomic status. In addition, students from low-income families are disproportionately affected because they lack equal opportunities and access to resources such as technology. As a result, low-income communities endured an inequitable hardship as a result of the pandemic. However, there are many ways that people can support these communities that are experiencing job loss, food uncertainty, and financial difficulties. For instance, Volunteering and donating to Food Banks can help serve and provide resources to low-income families that are financially struggling. Also, supporting programs such as The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH) can help serve low-income residents during troubling times like the pandemic. 

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Featured Image Via Brock Wegner

Sources: 

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/19/us-address-impact-covid-19-poor# 

https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2019/demo/p60-267.html  

https://inequality.org/facts/racial-inequality/#racial-inequality-covid   

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-08-13/online-learning-fails-low-income-students-covid-19-left-behind-project  

https://guides.rider.edu/privilege 



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