The COVID-19 experience is about several things. One of them is distribution.
Our connections are the pathways conveying friendship, love, goods and knowledge. All these things and more are distributed across them. Our ability to connect, and distribute, is a strength of human beings, but the pandemic makes visible the weakness too. The virus is distributed across these connections. In response we have chosen to break the physical connections, and thus the distribution, through social distancing and restricting our movement to home.
At first the virus was characterized as “democratic” as it infected anyone regardless of race, class, sex, political affiliation, or location. However, as time progressed and social distancing became more widely adopted, actual experience suggested something less than democratic. Minorities, lower-income earners, people in nursing homes, among others, seemed to be affected disproportionately high.
This affected group of people were finding it more difficult to follow social distancing practices. Many had to leave their home to get to work in jobs deemed essential. We need healthcare workers to aid the sick. We need public transit to get people to work. We need grocery stores to supply the food. We need transportation workers to supply the grocery stores. Many lived in high-density housing, such as apartments and nursing homes, or multi-generational homes.
Meanwhile, many higher-income earners, were able to continue to work from home. Often living in single family homes, they were able to isolate themselves from others and avoid travel.
The ideal of social distancing is logical: break the physical connection. Yet it is impractical for many. Does it mean social distancing is preferential to one group over another? Is it racists? May be. In the most benign terms, we might say Its conception could have been contextualized within the experience of the definers; methods that would work for them, but failed to consider other scenarios outside their living conditions and experience. If this were the case, it reflects a lack of vision to consider and execute a wider range of solutions to breaking the connection. Worse, it reflects an abdication of responsibility that, when the short-comings were recognised, they were not acted upon. It fails to empathize with those groups affected. It suggests a willingness to privilege one group to the detriment of an other; a lack of caring. Is it only coincidental that these assignments fall along class and racial lines or is it simply convenient?
It is clear where agency lies and where it does not.