A blog that has been out there much longer than mine (and which conveniently leaves the blogger’s identity mysterious) argues that “implementing vaccine passports would be a white supremacist measure.” The Biden administration is encouraging such documentation, and the ultra-woke state of Oregon has announced that these will be required for its citizens to go unmasked in any indoor, public-access gathering. I am not concerned here with the wisdom of the policy. I want to know how anyone can have a rational conversation with someone who is convinced such a measure is evidence of “white supremacy.”
“[P]oor people are much less likely to be vaccinated than higher-income persons…According to the long-set standards of Black Lives Matter and other critical-theory advocates, whether racial disparities like this are intended or not is irrelevant. These disparities are the results of racial discrimination and white privilege baked into the social-legal-medical networks for centuries. Therefore, it does not matter that this gap in immunization is not intended. It does not matter that the men and women managing the vaccine program and distribution, or administering it to the public, do not discriminate at the vaccine sites by the race of persons who come for the shots. Lack of deliberate intent does not excuse systemic racism. The fact that matters is this: “Black and Latino people are far more likely to live in poverty than white people, and despite having died at higher rates throughout the pandemic, they are receiving fewer vaccines than white people.”
The argument is instructive, which is why I am bothering to publish it. If any disparity exists in any area where blacks and other non-white groups have statistically less positive outcomes than whites, it is per se proof of “white supremacy.” The fact of statistical variation is the proof, and reasons don’t matter. This is an especially useful example, because there is no reason at all for poor people or minorities not to be vaccinated. The vaccinations are free and ubiquitous. The greatest cost imaginable would be a cab ride. One doesn’t need online access to get one.
Minorities and poorer populations—they are not the same thing—are lagging behind in getting the shots, and by choice. Now, in the case of African Americans, an argument could be made that systemic flaws in the school system, or systemically rooted inadequacies in nutrition leading to cognitive damage, or pockets of African American culture crippled by paranoia and superstition as an outgrowth of centuries of abuse from slavery, are examples of harm from past white supremacy. However, a policy that only confers a disadvantage on a group because that group chooses to be disadvantaged cannot be condemned as an expression of hostility toward that group, or as a means of keeping that group disadvantaged.