Getting Used to the Worst: COVID and Racial Inequality
by Didem ÖZÇAKIR
Two events marked the first eight months of 2020 for the USA: their failure in decreasing the number of COVID 19 cases and the Black Lives Matter protests. Both events had an impact on people globally. We saw the news about the rapid COVID increase in the USA everywhere. We were talking with our friends and family about racism - even if it is a very different concept in our cultures. All of these vanished from our topics, and Instagram feeds, just like it first started: very rapidly.
This does not mean that somehow managed to flatten their COVID curve. Contrarily, the US had an average of 30 thousand new cases when we were all talking about them constantly. Right now, they have an average of 75 thousand cases per day, with active cases increasing. This means we are getting used to seeing more cases every day like it is something normal.
While most of the countries in the world managed to flatten their COVID curve, we see that the USA is having a very hard time reducing their number of cases. Here is a comparison of Germany and the USA in their graphs of active and daily new cases.
There are multiple reasons why the USA failed to flatten its curve. US government was reluctant to take harsh measures against the pandemic in February and most of the March. When they finally realized the importance of the situation and imposed massive lockdowns, it was already too late. They were reluctant to damage the economy for a virus. This is the reason why Donald Trump is very much criticized for his policies during the pandemic. Another thing is that the USA lacks free and universal healthcare.
Although this does not directly contribute to the spread rate of the disease, it is directly related to death rates. Patients had a really hard time accessing the medical treatment that they needed. If they had enough money, their job would be much easier. It is no wonder why people who had the chance to survive with proper medical care were instead found in the death tolls. We also have to keep in mind that the USA is probably the most globalized country in the world. As a result, the number of people who entered the country with the virus was much higher than the other countries in the first place. However, the damage this situation caused still could be prevented with the right policies, as we can understand from Germany. Some critiques attribute this case to the level of individual liberties in the USA. They say people are very accustomed to not being limited by the government, so they can not impose the rules of lockdowns and social distancing.
Also, the role of Black Lives Matter protests in this cannot be disregarded. In the end, thousands of people gathered, and it is very hard to talk about “social distancing” during a protest. Still, what these protests achieved is a question that people who do not actively follow the news wonder. While our Instagram feeds and news channels were all full of images from the protests throughout June, just two months later, we are living as nothing has happened. This does not mean that the cause of the protests is less important right now. This probably means that those people who were sharing black screens in June has no idea about what the protests eventually achieved and probably did not understand the cause in the first place. There are still protests actively going on in the USA, although they have decreased in their scale. As protests started to become an occasion of burning cars and destroying streets, the number of unorganized and violent protests decreased significantly. There were still protests Louisville over Breonna Taylor’s death on 20 July. Protests made states question the jurisdiction of their police forces and how their law enforcement mechanisms work. Black people who were the previous victims of police brutality were also remembered, and there are now groups fighting for their justice, some also being already successful in getting what they want. We will eventually see how the judiciary system will also change.
Even if it looks like protests and COVID cases became a much less severe reality right now in the USA, this is far from the truth. We might be getting used to the news, but this does not mean their importance is decreasing.