New study: pointing out racial disparities in COVID-19 makes white people more reckless

Originally published at: New study: pointing out racial disparities in COVID-19 makes white people more reckless | Boing Boing


Being in GA, it’s a lot more overt. High rates in “other neighborhoods” are breezily dismissed by people in entrenched white southern surburbs, and mask wearing has all but vanished in these 'burbs. The white folks are not bothering to test, all hang out regularly, and shrug off “allergies” at work and school (school must, of course, stay open). Business as usual! Except when someone gets really ill, then it’s up to everyone to decide their personal strategy for a few days.

Meanwhile I feel a heckuva lot safer in stores serving a mixed population where everyone is masked up and courteous about each other’s space. And working from home the rest of the time.


Around the ATL, our 'burbs are transforming pretty rapidly, which I’m grateful for. I can’t imagine living in a place where no one is taking this shit seriously. I will most certainly continue to mask up to try and keep others safe.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Titus Burgess GIF by NETFLIX

I’m glad I live where I live, and not in the more rural, whiter parts of the state like where I grew up.


white people more reckless

Can confirm, evidence abounds.


This has infuriating echoes of the gun control conversation as well. White gun-obsessed Americans deliberately painting gun violence as an “Inner City” problem (despite the ahem observable phenotypical trend in mass shooters…) refusing to acknowledge their role. Even a healthy portion of ostensibly pro-gun-legislation democrats lack an immediate enthusiasm for the cause, and leave all the heavy lifting of public safety to black community groups.

Adding another piece of anecdata, in my Brooklyn neighborhood, which has pretty rapidly gentrified over the 12 years I’ve lived here but is still very mixed both in class and race, the difference is quite stark. The only local spot that is consistently 100% masked up is West India Roti place.


I would like to thank boingboing and the author for not only reporting this, but for rhe thoughtful analysis.

I can imagine how some sites/news sources will spin this.


That recklessness emerges in large part from ignorance. It’s not only ignorance of how viruses work or how climate change differs from the weather, but a deeper ignorance of the shared humanity of everyone on the planet. The concept of Foucault’s boomerang operates more broadly outside the context of colonialism and imperialism in that what comes for or is deliberately inflicted upon the most unprivileged of us has a good chance of impacting the most privileged as well.


I can’t help looking at this in the larger context. We’ve been getting these messages from the media for centuries now. The COVID response is just the latest example of a long history in the US with those in power creating policies against the self-interest of the majority if they think BIPOC will suffer as a result*.

In other words, the ways we point out racial disparities sometimes contributes to “othering” or victim blaming. Racial disparities do exist, but they’re not inherent traits of any one race. The fact that COVID-19 rates are higher among Black people has nothing to do with their Blackness

We also see this in reporting of income inequality, crime, drug use, birth/fertility rates, family structure, etc., to portray a group as unacceptable or threatening.

We need to be mindful about how we address those things. Otherwise, as this study demonstrates, even well-intentioned white people can start feeling more invincible — or, dare, I say, superior — to their neighbors of color. And that’s a problem.

Well, some large newspapers around the country have published apologies. Time will tell if they’re going to change their ways, though. As for how that’s affected attitudes of people who have not been subjected to this, the word “start” in the quoted section above had me doing this:

No Way Smile GIF by Get Out Movie

This is a problem that will take a lot of effort to undo. It has been compounded by the rise of “opinion journalism,” bothsideism, and fascism.

So much this. What we’re seeing because of the anti-CRT backlash created/supported by pols and others in power is how much of that is willful ignorance.

*Pool closures is one example, public schools are another.


To paraphrase jaded Luke Skywalker, "this shit ain’t gonna turn out the way they think it will."

I mean to outlive all these hateful muthafuckas…


Did the study demonstrate the problem was worsened? If we only look at how white people respond to something, we are furthering the already outsized influence of that response. The net effect to acknowledgement of the systemic racial disparities in healthcare could still be positive.

There is a long history of those hurt my systemic racism not having that damage recognized in anyway because doing so makes some white people uncomfortable. Is this story pointing out how to improve things, or just continuing to say we shouldn’t recognize the problems until we figure out the magical way to do so that doesn’t upset white people?

There are many benefits to recognizing the basic truths of systemic racism in this country, and that is more important than whether many white people react negatively to it.


My daughter said that today on public transit, despite the mandate being lifted, most people were still wearing masks. She said it was weird not hearing the message they’ve been playing since she started riding the train to school - “we’re in this together, but we must remain apart.”


Recognizing our shared humanity polled poorly compared to attacking Fauci and blaming the Chinese. Many of the architects of the strategy that covid is nbd didn’t do so out of ignorance, but out of a desire to maintain power, and to take an easy path in governing, rather than worry about people. Jared allegedly thought it to be a blue state problem, so the deaths might have been initially viewed as a feature, not a bug.


Confused Robert Downey Jr GIF

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Otherwise, as this study demonstrates, even well-intentioned white people can start feeling more invincible — or, dare, I say, superior — to their neighbors of color.

I believe it is safe to assume that there have always been well-intentioned White people who have felt superior to their neighbors of color.


After the Stephen Lawrence murder in the UK there was a lot of talk about systemic racism in the police force but I don’t recall much acknowledgement from media, schools etc about systemic racism in their areas, it is generally reported as individual cases of racism, not that the whole system is rotten.

Acknowledgment of the problem is getting better but a long way to go.

And don’t get me started on the issues in Australia which is where I am currently living.

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1.) Really pleased to see the extended discussion about how to communicate about race in a purposeful way that centers the effects of writing instead of the intent. Great examples to draw on, and a good frame to go back to whenever you make mistakes; by the end of the day, the goal is to build an equitable world, and it doesn’t always come across the way you want it to.

2.) The original results just go back to one of the facts of my professional life: People are bad at thinking in probabilities, and with our ‘individual choice’ framing of things, the question can quickly start and stop with “What is my personal risk?”. Racial disparities in COVID? That just means that my risk is lower than I thought. The same thing happens with discussing elevated risk due to pre-existing conditions: people underestimate their own risks and those of people around them. Just add in the amount of segregation we have, and they don’t have enough coherent examples of people that they’re invested in that it impacts. (Heck, look at police violence: white folks at the US are also at remarkable risk from police, but so long as black people are higher, they rate their risk comparatively, not based on absolute risk.)

Mind, I’m not arguing for innocence, here, only that consequences are driven by a systemic racist frame that insulates people from their actions. It’s pretty perverse that trying to point it out just… worsens things because it doesn’t actually shift the incentives and personal risk assessment.

That’s not an excuse for being a racist asshole. I’m as interested in structural racism as anyone, but FFS, how about we start holding people accountable for what they ACTUAL do in the world and the impact it has on others. THAT, IMHO, is how we shift these issues, reminding people that what they DO in the world has consequences for others, and that others are just as human as they are.


Then what, pray tell, are you “arguing for;” up in here?


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