Overview:

Know what's annoying? Seeing evidence that white supremacy causes negative health outcomes for many Americans. This includes COVID cases.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

If you’ve been paying any attention, you know that white supremacy and related hate groups pose a large problem in the U.S. The Southern Poverty Law Center finds in their 2021 report on extremism that extremism has become embedded in mainstream U.S. politics.

And USA Today notes an all-time high in white supremacist propaganda in 2020. Thanks, Trump?!

Sorry, that was a pitiful attempt at a riff on the “Thanks Obama” meme.

Obviously, this racist, misogynist brainwashing is dangerous. But new evidence shows that it may literally be killing us.

This new article, in the peer-reviewed journal Social Science & Medicine by Skinner-Dorkenoo et al, demonstrates that white Americans who identify as more politically conservative and are aware of racial disparities impacting COVID-19 show less empathy and want reduced safety precautions. In other words, white Americans who think COVID is disproportionately impacting non-white people care less, despite evidence that COVID impacts us all.

I’ve already ranted about how anti-vaxxers are ableist, which connotes literally not caring about other human beings nor being concerned with one’s own capacity to become disabled at any moment in time. The selfishness involved here is just incredible.

This isn’t news, either. I forget why I picked up this book at the library a year or two ago, but I’m glad I did, as it changed how I viewed white supremacy: not just as a system to harm racial Others, but as a system that kills its own.

In Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland, author Dr. Jonathan Metzl utilizes three compelling case studies to illustrate how the followers of white supremacy are poisoning themselves in the process:

  • in Tennessee, where white voters refused to support the Affordable Care Act, even as many of them were sick and dying from utterly treatable illnesses;
  • in Kansas, where concern over “those” kinds of people led to massive funding cuts to schools, where once Kansas public schools had been the pride of the nation;
  • in Missouri, where once-strict gun laws were repealed over racial fears, and the most people killed in the ensuing years were…white men, by their own hands.

In some of my lectures on toxic masculinity, I refer to excerpts from this book, but it’s also super relevant now in light of COVID and this new study.

What was so striking is that Dr. Metzl documents, quite painstakingly, I might add, just how much white people hurt themselves by clinging to racist ideas. Like, the white men in Missouri who said time and time again that they needed more access to guns to protect themselves and their families from “those” kinds of criminals (aka people of color), and then without fail, they turned those guns on themselves. It’s sad, and it hooks into all kinds of other contemporary social issues like the stigma surrounding seeking mental health help and how toxic masculinity molds men into unrealistic versions of themselves.

To my fellow white people: COVID is killing and disabling us. And apparently, there are some of you who think this is fine so long as it’s hurting other people more than it’s hurting us.

It’s time to wake up and smell the hand sanitizer. This seems like an obvious statement, but sadly needs to be repeated: Holding onto racist ideas hurts other people, which is a very bad thing. But it becomes both a bad thing and a sad thing when we’re turning the “guns” on ourselves, while still shouting about the importance of self-defense.

Jeana Jorgensen

FOXY FOLKORIST Studied folklore under Alan Dundes at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to earn her PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She researches gender and sexuality in fairy...