Effectively fighting racism and discrimination means we must be careful about our tactics, a second wave would set us back, says Saffran Mihnar.
COVID19 has infected 8 million people, and killed nearly half a million. It has made all of us more vulnerable, impacting those in low-income countries the worst, as lockdowns continue. The pandemic has impacted everyone, whether that be financial, mental or physical. That’s why we must come together to fight it.
Discrimination based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity has also infected people, killed people and impacted millions financially, mentally and physically. That’s why we must come together to fight it. Right now we are witnessing a historic movement calling for justice and an end to racial discrimination, following the unjust killing of George Floyd. If we go back in history, this has been something happening for many centuries around the world, where we will have seen and also lived in unjust societies going back to colonialism, slavery, racial violence and inequality.
National lockdowns, social distancing, and wearing face masks are helping to reduce the spread of COVID19. But there is an ever-present threat of a second wave that could be much worse than the first. The second wave outbreak during the Spanish Flu caused many millions more deaths than its first.
Humanity lost some of its great minds and was pushed backwards on its road to development. I’m afraid today that we may be repeating history again and see a huge loss to human civilisation. Seeing people marching on the streets without proper physical or social distancing and without face masks makes me nervous. As much we need to show solidarity and fight against all forms of discrimination. We also need to balance this with a recognition that we are opening up more doors to a second wave of COVID-19.
We have a social responsibility as global citizens to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19. We must follow all health guidelines, and ensure that while developing new strategies we don’t discriminate or disproportionately impact marginalised communities, including the elderly. We must consider the potential impacts of our strategies and recognise that the impact of the virus and lockdowns exacerbates existing inequalities between Global North and Global South, young and old, rich and poor.
I’m also afraid that COVID-19, could potentially ravage a generation that humanity needs to run the world, to end discrimination through their demonstrable leadership, determination and innovation. More than half of the world’s population is under the age of 30. Although the death rate among younger people is considerably lower, there is evidence to suggest infection rates for young people are rising. And in the Global South, where pre-existing conditions, higher rates of poverty and weaker health infrastructures, the picture is considerably different to the Global North. As has been seen in India, many young people are also especially vulnerable to the dangers of continuing lockdown (starvation, suicide, etc.). For them a second wave, and the resultant extension of lockdowns, could be fatal.
I urge everyone to follow health advice and take precautions when considering protesting in large groups. We cannot afford to lose another generation, we are the future. We need to bring policy reforms, systematic changes to global governance and stop all forms of discrimination.
Everybody is discussing “Leaving no one behind” it is time governments committed to finding strategies to address issues of inequality and discrimination while tackling the global pandemic. We know that the pre-virus normal was not sustainable and as we recover we should be building back better, fairer more sustainably and more equitably for all.
The pandemic demands a forceful, immediate response. Restarting and rebuilding every nation in a post-COVID-19 era is a challenge that must be met with the inclusive participation of all stakeholders to have success. It is also an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed to bring the change we need to the world.