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  • Writer's pictureJudy Ryde

Being White in the time of Covid-19

Click here to read more..... Covid 19 reveals much about us human beings. It lays bear some hard truths, not the least of which is the way that we are destroying the very environment that sustains us. Just easing up a bit on our consumption allows the rest of the ecosystem to revive a little. As I wrote in White Privilege Unmasked, western Europeans – white people – are mostly responsible as they became accustomed, or even addicted, to the easy living that a high energy/high carbon use affords us. No wonder that people in the rest of the world want the same advantages. Now we export the manufacture and production of our luxuries to countries where labour is cheap and then berate the people who work for us, usually on poverty wages, for unclean use of energy.

Exploitation of people who are not white within the western world is, of course, something else we knew about previously but has been thrown into sharp relief by Covid 19 with much greater numbers of BAME people becoming ill. Dying. The suggestion that something genetic is going on here seems a bizarre idea as the genetic diversity of BAME people is huge. We need look no further than the fact that non-white people are more likely to be

· in poverty with the accompanying impact on general health and diet

· over-represented in occupations which are vulnerable to catching the virus such as those on the front lines of health and care work and providing other essential services such as those who keep the world clean and safe

· more likely to have live of the margins of society such as those with insecure immigration status

· less likely to live in houses with gardens and near the countryside where they can walk and keep healthy out of doors

· more likely to suffer from mental ill health

Covid 19 reveals that a great many of those in BAME groups provide us all with what turns out to be essential services. Of course, many white people also carry out such jobs but, as a group, those from BAME communities tend to live with disadvantage and often lead lives of service to others. Maybe this is clearer to us now and many acknowledge the importance of people who carry out these jobs, often with insufficient protection. We are learning to be grateful to people who carry out often poorly paid but vital jobs (though also includes better paid people like doctors). Many of the poorer paid people in the care sector, for example, have been almost invisible to white people who are beginning to see now their preparedness to work for the public good. We must not forget this when life returns to something like it was before and become a fairer, more inclusive society.

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