Both Covid-19 and racism need root level solutions

The pandemic caused by COVID-19 and the growing awareness around antiracism have a lot of dynamics in common. Last Friday I got my first vaccine in the banjar (Balinese neighbourhood) of my village. My landlord asked me the evening before if I wanted to be vaccinated and the next morning she messaged me “you can go there now”. I didn’t even have my coffee yet and within ten minutes the Biofarma, the Indonesian version of the Chinese sinovac, was injected into my body.
Sometimes it’s good to not overthink things. I could read endlessly about the pros and cons of the current vaccination. And I’d probably find some worrying news about people who experienced unpleasant side effects. Instead, I asked my friend who is an epidemiologist and who follows the global news about the vaccin very closely and decided to trust her knowledge. It gives me peace of mind to not have to think about this too much.
I’m not making a plea here to stop critical thinking or act naively, I’m just saying that it can be liberating to trust in someone else’s knowledge instead of wanting to find everything out for yourself.

  • Trust in others in a key aspect in antiracism as well.
  • Trust that other people’s experiences are different from yours.
  • Trust that there’s excellent knowledge outside of the world you’re living in. 
  • And trust that changing your perspective of things will enrich you. 

There is a lot we don’t know yet about COVID-19. But it’s a fact that the world has shown that if there is a will to collaborate, it’s possible to pull off a vaccine much earlier than normally happens. Change doesn’t have to be complicated, but there needs to be a will to do it. 

On a side note, the vaccine doesn’t solve the root of the problem. Sickness caused by COVID-19 exists because our way of life on planet earth – keeping thousands of animals together in small cages and cutting forests which brings wildlife closer to our environment – creates them. If we don’t want similar viruses in the future, we need to rethink the current ways of treating our livestock. 

It reminds me of the solutions we’ve been coming up with when we’re discussing media diversity. An unconscious bias training can be helpful to make the newsroom and journalists more aware of the blindspots and surely hiring people of color can contribute to the solution. But if schooling about the topic isn’t combined by an in-depth research of the root of the problem, of the dark pages of our history and the society that’s built on that, it will be just a bandage for the problem. And if the people of color who’ve been recruited end up working in an all white environment it won’t take long before they leave because of a lack of a feeling of belonging. 

The roots lie in a history of colonialism and a previous embracement of a race theory that prefers white people over colored people. Those are the topics that require debate and investigation. It calls us as products of that history to reflect on our position in society, within the Western society particularly the privileged white people need to do more work and in a global context the people of color are part of a system of Western whiteness as well. There is lots to unpack and a vaccine or plaster isn’t going to solve the problem for the long term.