2020 was truly a fever dream, no pun intended. Each consecutive month brought more challenges, grievances, and day dreams of 2021. Now that it’s here, some of us seem appalled at the fact that COVID-19 didn’t bury itself in a universe far, far away as soon as midnight struck on January 1st. As 2020 taught us, nothing goes away just because we wish it would. No amount of unmasked Floridians in indoor bars could send COVID on its way. Nor can any amount of white supremacist uprisings rid all of the work that needs to be done to repair a systemically racist system.
As the COVID-19 vaccine slowly disseminates to at-risk communities, those on the front lines of exposure begin to get their first doses. Now that the general public has inched closer to the front of the line, the racial divide between those able to secure a vaccination and those left on their own is becoming clear. Despite the fact that certain categories of recipients are drawn out by each state, those that deviate from these boundaries are using their privilege to bend the rules in their favor. This is seen in CNN’s finding that in an analysis of 14 states, White people have a vaccine coverage that is twice as high as that among Black and Latino individuals. This comes in contrast with the CDC finding that Black and Latino individuals are dying and being hospitalized at three times the rate of their White counterparts. The disparity is clearly drawn out, but this fact does not stop the White sense of entitlement from growing heavier as this pandemic continues to plague every corner of the country.
Doctor Edward Goldberg of Manhattan’s Upper East Side reveals to the New York Times that, despite their careless travel on private planes to exotic vacations on tropical islands and their lack of holding any career that could even be slightly considered as putting them “at risk”, his patients seemed to feel that just because the vaccine exists, they have a right to it. Coming at a time defined by institutional racism and fatal inequities in COVID-19 treatment, what makes White people think their Spring break trip to Europe is more valuable than the life of Black and Latino people across the country? Just because you have the ability to stretch the boundaries to include yourself does not mean it is ethical to do so.
It is something we learn in kindergarten, something that the most elite, wealthy individuals in America have no patience for: waiting your turn. These people, who live in homes with enough resources to quarantine for the next year, who pay for private health insurance, and who can receive immediate, top notch health care want to protect themselves from a disease they already have ample protection from, a disease the impoverished of America have lost countless loved ones to. Dollars do not override deservance but, to some, missing sitting front row at a concert is at stake whereas for others, it’s missing the presence of a loved one. COVID-19 has taught us a lot more than just how to properly wear a mask. It has taught us to check our privilege before we decide it’s justified to cut in line for a vaccine that might simply make our arm sore, but save someone else’s life.