COVID-19 here to cause havoc on minority communities?”
By Professor Kusi-Appiah,
QE scholar, 2019/2020
In this article, I am appealing to adherents of neoliberalism as an economic system to wake up and understand that the marginalization of our most productive population can come back to haunt all of us. While marginalized people are being asked to do more, they are not getting the remuneration or attention they need to live decent lives. So during this so called critical period of COVID-19, we continue to lose critical workers because they are not being taken care of which will also result in them not being able to take care of their own loved ones. This is the time that we need to stand up and be counted.
Underdogs can be inspirational
I take my cue from a quote by one brilliant journalist who hit the nail on the head this morning while commenting on the death of soccer superstar Diego Maradona. Writing in the New York Times, Daniel Alarcon said, “As an underdog from a slum, Maradona took this classism personally. The essence of Diego’s gift wasn’t simply athletic; it was in his character, his defiance.” Daniel Alarcon nailed it with the above poignant quote, which indeed speaks to the never-say-die attitude of marginalized people worldwide. Marginalized people continue to defy all odds to make life worth living in spite of the looting and, even in the era of COVID-19.
Just like the departed Diego Maradona, the slum native, our marginalized brothers and sisters will not keep quiet; they will not roll over and cry wolf while the plunder continues. Unfortunately, the majority of our marginalized brothers and sisters have had to shoulder the load of taking care of the sick in this era of covid-19 while at the same time recording some of the highest numbers of infection in the country. I am putting it to you (apologies to my learned brothers and sisters), COVID-19 is affecting minorities more than any other demographic in the world. This means that we need to wake up and change the system that makes this possible.
COVID-19 is real; lets treat it as such
We are in a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be letting up, and the statistics show that people like you and me are the worst hit; such that, if this trend continues, our communities will be further debilitated by this virus that was unleashed in the first place by the activities of adherents to neoliberalist thinking. In other words, the system that has made this possible for eons must be stopped, and it must be stopped now! For if we do not confront this system of neoliberalism that worships profits and proposes privatization as the only way to progress, we will be doing a great disservice to our own. Requiring communities to pay for the water that we drink, a commodity that appears freely and naturally on planet Earth, is inhumane and downright unconscionable. Yes, I stand with scholars and policy icons like Vandana Siva, David Harvey, Anthony Appiah, Richard Wolffe, Nelson Mandela, Naomi Klein, Wales Singini, Brighton Chunga, Paul Mkandawire, Bernie Sanders and AOC, in condemning the outright neglect of the “hand-that-feeds-you”, for it is the worker(s) who make “unlimited growth” possible, and they are the ones who need to benefit from the surplus value (apologies to Karl Marx).
Moving forward with COVID-19”
In the final month of the year 2020, we are watching our most essential workers (most of whom are minority) wilt away, probably due to fatigue, but also because of their own historical marginalization at the hands of neoliberalists who claim to own everything and anything that is supposed to be human. But we cannot continue to live in squalid conditions and at the same time take care of the health and wellbeing of our oppressors without saying anything about our own oppression. As I write, 60% + of the caseload of COVID-19 is borne by marginalized peoples in Canada, which is also the case for all historically marginalized people around the world (i.e., coloured: black/brown/yellow/green/ citizens). In Ottawa for example, the cause of death of our dear brother Abdi Rahman Abdi has not been resolved. But if we cast our minds back to the way in which marginalized people have been treated over the centuries, it is not surprising that there is a pushback from the powers that be (including their surrogates), the powers that continue to keep us marginalized.
The time has come for us (we the marginalized) to get together and oppose the narrative that keeps us marginalized.
We can do so starting now.
Andy Kusi-Appiah is an adjunct professor at Carleton University. His interests are in the impact of social and environmental changes on the health and well-being of vulnerable groups (e.g., 2nd generation Canadians of African descent).