by Rebecca J. Lester Ph.D., MSW, LCSW

What COVID can teach us about inequity and compassion.

It goes without saying that the last few months have been an incredibly difficult time. Our worlds have changed, perhaps forever.  The safety and security we once took for granted has been upended, and we are all still trying to find our footing.

This situation has led me to reflect not on deprivation, but on privilege.  Because it occurs to me that the very things that are grinding many of us down at the moment: uncertainty, instability, feeling out of control of our circumstances, feeling hopeless, despairing that things won’t get better, having trouble concentrating or being motivated–all of these things are indicators of privilege that has been disrupted.  This is not to suggest that these feelings aren’t real or valid.  They absolutely are.  But we are feeling them precisely because they mark such radical departures from our usual everyday lives.

As an anthropologist, I spend a great deal of time learning and thinking about cultures and societies other than my own.  And one thing that quickly becomes clear when we take a global perspective is that expectations of an orderly, predictable, world where we have agency and the ability to affect the circumstances in which we live is a distinctly unusual state of affairs.  These are properties of what social scientists and psychologists call WEIRD societies (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic).  WEIRD societies make up only a tiny sliver of the world’s population (Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan 2010).  The ways most Americans experience the world, then, puts them in a distinct minority.

Not only this, but not all Americans have access to the same kinds of resources and opportunities.  We know from public health research, for example, that African Americans and other people of color are disproportionately affected by a variety of health concerns coupled with reduced access to healthcare, which is further compounded by the everyday micro- and macroagressions of racism and socioeconomic disadvantage.  This leads to a weathering effect (Geronimus 1992) that has profound effects on outcomes, including in the current pandemic (Sanford and Carter 2020).  And people of all races and ethnicities living in poverty contend daily with uncertainty, instability, and feeling out of control of their circumstances, which can lead to a sense of foreshortened future and hopelessness as well as difficulties making decisions or taking proactive steps (Mani et al., 2013). 

When disadvantaged groups in our own country or people in other societies can’t somehow muster the wherewithal to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” they are often blamed for not trying hard enough, for not taking advantage of all the opportunities on offer, for somehow “deserving” their beleaguered state.  Yet when we privileged folks get but a taste of similar conditions, we find it hard to cope and our worlds fall apart, leaving us to wonder how we will ever get back on track.

I want to be clear that I am not engaging in a “whose suffering is worse?” exercise.  It is not a competition–suffering is suffering, and the current situation has produced very real and very dire consequences for millions and millions of people.  What I do want to do, however, is to invite us all to reflect upon what that suffering can teach us about broader scale structures that frame our collective human lives and the kinds of challenges people less fortunate than us deal with every single day–not to minimize our own struggles, but to mobilize them toward a different end.  Can my difficulties feeling motivated to do regular work in the midst of this crisis give me more compassion for the person who lives in insecurity every day, yet rides three busses to get to a minimum wage job?  Can my challenges concentrating during the pandemic help me understand a bit better why some kids struggle at school when they don’t know what might be waiting for them out on the street or at home?  Can this experience lead me to ask different questions or pay attention to different information before making judgements about people in another society or a country’s level of “development” or “progress”? article continues after advertisement

This is, indeed, an unprecedented time.  Let’s use it to gain some unprecedented insights about ourselves, about others, and about the world we live in.

2 thoughts on “That Feeling May Be Your Privilege Cracking”
  1. You are so on point!!! Another angle, spiritual and other?
    LBRC- “You” decide! Why did #45 accuse Obama of having “No Birth
    Certificate”? Why are “Neo Confederates” bent on duping you into believing
    they are “Patriots”, when in fact “They and their ancestors” are
    “Real Constitutional Traitors” who desire wars and started one with the
    “Murder” of “Loyal U.S. Soldiers” at Fort Sumpter? btw- P.T.
    Beauregard, Red State Louisiana, “Bragged” about firing the “1st”
    murdering shot! He’s still celebrated in La. and especially in the La. Legislature! How do Negro Legislators become literally “sycophants” to this ilk and sit on their ‘Glutes and watch as Majority Negro NOLA become their Share Cropping “Tax Slaves”, then get excited about a nominal rebate aided by their “Blue Dog” Governor? NOLA pays disparate insurance and fees! Its largest sports structure is controlled, especially the ‘mullah, by outside parishes and Negroes flock there in droves! Racist migrated out, lots, still desires control and do!!!

    1. What is Psychological Projection? It is a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.(Look it up).

    a. Fred, #45’s father, is a relatively “Recent” immigrant. To get his Birth
    Certificate, Germany maybe? What about #45? Even if he produced one, who’d not question it’s authenticity? We know he’s an avid liar and very inventive with his so- called facts. He accused Obama illegitimate and not being very intellectual? Now Say “Projection”? Also say “Surrogate Admissions”? Hello…???

    b. The Spiritual Take, “Fact”? Christ not only existed but had a “Birth
    Certificate”! His nemesis Satan? Ans. Does not!!! Why? Ans. How does one born of a Jackal (Romulus/Remus- Rome, uh oh too!) obtain a Birth Certificate? The Creator made Earth to be good, clean, non polluted, void of “Evil Control”? Satan and his ilk have polluted it and sacrifice human lives for “Profit”!!! Ask Covid- 19 and now 2020 aka Covid- 20!!!

    2. Neo Confederates are storming Legislatures with “Loaded” weapons demanding ‘Dat Economies open! They desire to do and go as they please! These are of the same ilk who compelled Negroes during Slavery and Jim Crow to obey targeted unjust, Unconstitutional and “Picayunish” oppressive laws, in order to keep them in their place! 2020 Negro ‘Simps play pretend! This brings us to “The Law of Pitch and Catch”! This “Racist ilk” ‘luvs to “Pitch”, but they can’t “Catch”!!! Is ‘Dis ‘Thang on…?

    a. Neo Confederates and Projection? This ilk betrays everything exemplified, defined and “Codified The U.S. Constitution”, makes mockery and is “Anti”! Let’s see- At the end of the day- The Anti Christ and his ilk is “Anti” The Most High and His Seed! Neo Confederates ostentatiously flaunt weapons and complicit Police and their programmed Negroes do what? Ans. Look on and do absolutely ‘Nuttun, do not challenge!!! However, these and their Sycophant Willie Lynch Programmed Negro cohorts, have terrorized Black Communities for centuries! Just like in the movie Robo Cop, most are programmed to enforce against all except their “Programmers”!

    b. When The Anti Christ and his ilk desire “A Cover of Law”, in their minds
    Legitimacy? They claim to be “Patriots”? Now there’s “Projection!!!

    3. This is a painful admission, however- The Anti Christ ilk deserves recognition, as a diametrically opposed to Good Evil Genius, however Evil they are! Not only have they duped their ‘Simp lemmings, but lots of ‘Simp Negroes like those who visited NOLA during Beauregard’s removal from the “Public Square”! To this we say- Stupid will do as Stupid does! How in the heck do you celebrate the man who rapped Grandma and “Murdered” Grandpa? These Negroes, also Politicos and Apostates, are on a
    (l)uxurious Ocean Cruise in a Dingy, their 1st Class Accommodations!!!
    Peace Out…

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