Separate but COVID, Still Unequal
America almost always stands divided on two sides of the same coin and on the wrong side of history.
Well, as some might have noticed, I silenced my Facebook timeline at the onset of federal vaccination mandates.
But what you might not know is my decision was not because of politically polarizing discourse known on social media, but out of disappointment and malice over insidious posts about unvaccinated people.
Although I am vaccinated, but not by choice, sometimes I regret my decision.
While I understand the required adherence to mandates could prevent another massive public health outbreak, at what point has it become at the expense of democracy.
For how long has American history shown us that more intrusive and invasive measures are substantially ineffective.
At what point will social democracy no longer drive a wedge between the American people and issues like reproductive or civil rights, no longer constrain individual autonomy, and not simply because of constitutional birthrights, but for people to be treated less like second-class citizens.
It has taken me as little as a few months to realize I am Black before I am a female, and before I am female, I am vaccinated, and race invalidates all others.
A Moment of Black History
Then, part of a passage came to mind from something Ibram X. Kendi wrote in Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas of America:
“The projected benevolence of the Plessy ruling seemed to bring a finality to the disorder of the “Negro problem.” Indeed, the finality of the “Negro problem” as the nineteenth century closed meant the United States dead set on playing down the southern horrors of discrimination and playing up what was wrong with Black people.”
And Kendi is right; and, lately, I’ve been wondering where America would be if Homer Plessy were seen equal before the law and was entitled to the same equal protection of the law without discrimination.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold the 1890 Louisiana law that allowed the ‘equal but separate’ doctrine, America became more or less synonymous with institutional racial segregation. The intransigent beliefs of its society were not going to change simply through changes in the law, as argued by the courts.
However, thankfully, civil rights leaders have followed Plessy’s footsteps, pioneering acts of protest and resistance to segregated trains in the early Jim Crow era to later buses beginning the civil rights movement.
To say their names…Alberta Schenck of Alaska in 1944; Irene Morgan of Baltimore, Maryland, in 1944; Bayard Rusin of Montgomery, Alabama, in 1945; Lillie Mae Bradford of Montgomery, Alabama, in 1951; Sarah Keys of Washington, North Carolina, in 1952; Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Mary Louise Smith all of Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955; and the historic Rosa Park of Montgomery, Alabama, almost eight months later.
It is as if it took the Montgomery bus boycott and the case of Browder v. Gayle before a 1956 U.S. Supreme Court decision declared Alabama’s segregation laws on buses as unconstitutional.
But the irony then and now is the contrast between what the government expects, what happens, and quite frankly, how it affects Jim Crow America.
The finality of Plessy Ruling amidst COVID-19
The sad part about the Plessy ruling amidst COVID-19 is Republicans have debated the same constitutionality from which the fourteenth amendment prohibits restrictive legislation on the part of the states, to ban vaccination requirements in 21 Republican states.
The way the Biden-Harris administration is deliberately imposing such doctrine on unvaccinated people is uncanny for a party that fought against it for decades.
“Separate But Equal” doctrine still divides America
Who would have imagined that in 2022 the problem facing America would be a show of force on both sides: signs of Jim Crow ‘separate but equal’ doctrine in President Joe Biden’s rule and resistance by the Republican party.
Even if Democrats think ‘separate but equal’ policies are acceptable for COVID-19 vaccinates specifically (which they are not), it makes me wonder how far this administration is willing to placate Republicans. Even still, America’s white privilege remains behind the dividing party lines, and clearly, America has neither been blind nor passive in choosing to retaliate against people of color.
At face value, for Democrats to seek bipartisan support to end COVID-19 is one thing; compromising on a public health threat at the cost of democracy is quite another.
To be continued…
This article is still in works.