Ubiquitous panic is rare, but we have lived with it now for three months concerning COVID-19; we also have a growing, separate panic sweeping major cities about the tragic homicide of Mr. Floyd in Minnesota. In both cases, those who will suffer first and worst will be members of marginalized groups.
When dealing with a novel virus, such as COVID-19, we try to construct predictive models for authorities to use for planning. Nearly every early model, most especially the “authoritative” one published by the Imperial College of London, was very badly, very consequentially, wrong. On learning that it was a respiratory virus, we knew that the elderly, those with certain chronic illnesses, and the immune-compromised were most vulnerable. In the US, only Florida acted swiftly on that.
The fifteen=day lockdown that went nationwide was founded on fear and ignorance. By the end of January 2020, we knew that the infection fatality rate would be small, so this was highly contagious but not particularly deadly. The lockdown first affected illegal immigrants, most of whom were people of color. Six million families, of all races, faced a daily decision: go outside to get work, or my children don’t eat. Record employment levels of black and Hispanic workers were built over three years, and they were often the last hired – thus the first fired. They might have been able to practice their professions remotely, but there was no longer a job to do.
We knew as soon as the disease’s human-to-human transmissibility was revealed that the worst thing to do would be to lock people indoors together, especially people without jobs. Airborne viruses are far easier to transmit indoors than out, and sunlight is known to damage viruses. So, most of the reasoning behind the mass lockdown, based on models that were horribly wrong, disappeared. Groups that would benefit from divisiveness and panic promoted a narrative that unless everyone obeyed every particular of every lock down order, there would be mass death. There simply was no science behind this, but the print and broadcast media fanned the flames.
The effect on marginalized groups was quick and atrocious. Suicide rates went up, violence against women increased rapidly, and child abuse soared. With the disappearance of wait-staff jobs in restaurants, disproportionately providing employment to women and people of color, more were shoved inside and forgotten. It appears that Vitamin D plays a key role in the immune system, and the primary source of Vitamin D is sunlight absorbed through the skin. The darker the skin, the less Vitamin D is absorbed. I have seen nothing about specific effects on other marginalized groups, such as LGBTQ, but with a higher-than-typical suicide rate, members of this group will likely suffer from both suicide and increased bashing.
Now, we have city after city protesting the homicide of Mr. Floyd at the hands of a police officer. That is understandable and something I support. What is being protested is racism. Protests do not require burning homes and businesses, assaulting police officers nor looting stores. The Minneapolis Police responded in a racist manner, by abandoning the neighborhood and the people and businesses in it. The neighborhood is now under the control of violent people who assault, loot and burn. The police decided the majority-black neighborhood wasn’t worth defending.
Small businesses are being destroyed hourly in Minneapolis and other cities, disproportionately businesses owned by marginalized people. What the COVID-19 panic didn’t destroy, the protesters will finish off. As I’m writing this, I’m watching live coverage of protest activity outside the White House. The Secret Service is being verbally and physically attacked, but cannot be swept aside without employing deadly force. I’m afraid the protesters don’t realize that any attempt to breach the Executive Mansion will be dealt with by deadly force, if necessary. For the Secret Service, it’s not a matter of ego, but a matter of law, regardless of who occupies the White House. Protesters with serious testosterone poisoning are in for an enormous surprise, perhaps the last surprise they will ever experience.