Dear anti-lockdown protesters – your white privilege is showing

The only people calling to relax the lockdowns are whites who are among the least likely to die from it. That’s white privilege and selfishness.

Take a look at this photo from the anti-Stay-at-Home protests in Lansing, Michigan. What do you see?

COVID-19 lockdown protesters on 4/15/2020 in Lansing, Michigan (Image Credit: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press)

Now this photo from Frankfort, Kentucky. What do you see?

COVID-19 lockdown protestors in Frankfort, Kentucky, April 15, 2020. (Image Credit: Bryan Woolston, REUTERS)

Now this photo from Huntington Beach, California. What do you see?

COVID-19 lockdown protestors in Huntington Beach, California on April 17, 2020 (Image Credit: Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Notice any similarities?

Let me tell you what I see.

In Lansing, Michigan I see a lot of flags – US flags, Gadsden flags (Don’t Tread On Me), a Trump flag, and what looks like a Three Percenter anti-government militia flag. I see a lot of hats: baseball caps, camo caps, flags worn as scarves, and red Trump hats. I see a few masks, but most protestors are maskless and I see almost no-one observing the 6-foot distancing rule. I see a lot more men than women – about 2/3rds men, in fact. And I don’t see a single person of color in the entire image.

In Frankfort, Kentucky I see several flags, but they’re all US flags. I see a lot of protest signs, some of which compare the Governor to a tyrant. I see a lot of hats, but they’re all pretty nondescript. I see a total of four masks out of something like 25 people who are clear enough to identify whether they’re wearing a mask or not, and I see almost no-one observing the 6-foot distancing rule. I see more men than women – about 60% men. And I don’t see a single person of color in the entire image.

In Huntington Beach, California, I see a lot of flags, and they’re all US flags except for the one Trump 2020/US flag fusion. I see a lot of protest signs, including one QAnon conspiracy theory sign and more tyranny. I see a lot of hats, but again they’re all pretty nondescript – no identifiable Trump/MAGA hats, for example. I see a few masks, but no-one observing the 6-foot distancing rule. I see more men than women – about 70% men. And I see a total of three people of color clearly identifiable as protestors in the entire image.

Let’s bring in another piece of information into this, namely recent data on racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of April 15, Michigan’s black communities were 14% of the population of the state but had 33% of the cases and 40% of the deaths. Hispanics are 5% of the population but only have 2% of cases and 1% of deaths. Asians are 3% of Michigan’s population but only have 1% of the cases and of the deaths, and American Indians/native Alaskans are < 1% of the population but have about 1% of the cases and 1% of the deaths. In contrast, whites are 75% of the population, only have 28% of the cases, and 40% of the deaths.

Kaiser has data for California as well and it's similar. Blacks are 5% of the population, have 5% of the cases, but 10% of the deaths. Hispanics are 39% of the population, but only 24% of the cases and 26% of the deaths. Asians are 15% of the population, have 8% of the cases and 13% of the deaths. And American Indians/native Alaskans are less than 1% of the population and have less than 1% of the cases and deaths. In contrast, whites are 37% of the population of California, have 20% of the cases, and 34% of the deaths.

As of April 15, the Kaiser Family Foundation did not have data for Kentucky.

What does this tell me? It tells me that black and American Indian/native Alaskan communities are faring much worse than hispanic, asian, and especially white communities. It tells me that systemic racism against both communities has, in addition to all its other costs, a cost in lives lost to COVID-19. And it tells me that the people doing most of the protesting in Michigan and California (and likely Kentucky too) are the people who are among the least affected by the virus.

This tells me that the anti-lockdown protests are an expression of white privilege. And not just white privilege, but white male privilege. Given the number of people showing up to these protests wearing/carrying thousands of dollars of firearms and tactical gear, I could even go so far as to say well-off white male privilege.

It also tells me that, for the majority of people calling to relax stay-at-home orders, it’s not about economics and it’s not about American values like liberty. It is about selfishness and unconscious racism (or even conscious racism) and it’s about politics.

If you’re a white person calling to relax the lockdowns in your state, check your privilege. You’re part of the problem whether you mean to be or not.

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