That blacks (whether African or Afro Caribbean), Pakistanis, Indians and so on suffer greater infection and death rates from the coronavirus appears to be true. The question, obviously enough, is why?
The general answer being essayed is that it’s the structural racism of British society. Innit? How could it be anything else? We’ve even had the usual groupings complaining that their evidence to an inquiry wasn’t published along with the results. Because the usual groupings, en masse, simply said it was all structural racism, innit?, and that’s not really all that helpful in trying to work out whether it is. Assertions based upon political prejudices not usually being taken as evidence, d’ye see?
It is possible that this is the cause, sure it is, but it’s something we rather have to go prove, not assume.
The Guardian gives us an interesting example of the mindset here.
But there is evidence they are the result of structural racism. All these underlying problems can be directly connected to the food and exercise you have access to, the level of education, employment, housing, healthcare, economic and political power within these communities.
The evidence suggests that this coronavirus does not discriminate, but highlights existing discriminations. The continued prevalence of ideas about race today – despite the lack of any scientific basis – shows how these ideas can mutate to provide justification for the power structures that have ordered our society since the 18th century.
We’re gonna go with the structural racism problem as the cause. We are so, so, surprised, right? It’s just that in that very piece we also get this:
Another target that has come in for speculation is vitamin D deficiency. People with darker skin who do not get enough exposure to direct sunlight may produce less vitamin D, which is essential for many bodily functions, including the immune system. In terms of a link to susceptibility to Covid-19, this has not been proven. But very little work on this has been done and the pandemic should prompt more research on the medical consequences of vitamin D deficiency generally.
That is, this is an entirely possible cause, the logic is there. We don’t know whether reality supports this hypothesis and we should go find out. But we’ll still run with the structural racism one all the same.
There is rather another hole in the logic being employed here. Over and above the, erm, above. Which is that there is indeed a social gradient in this country, as there is in every country and human society. We’re status seeking beings, that’s what we do. It is also entirely true that those at the bottom of that gradient generally have worse health than those at the top. This is not entirely causative, as Michael Marmot tries to insist, because bad health can lead to a loss of social status – and wealth and income – just as bad health can be caused by being at the bottom of a social heirarchy. It’s complicated, not simple.
OK, so, social gradient at least will match, to some extent, the health gradient even if the why is a two way street. Those not of a pinkish, gammony, hue like me will tend to be toward the bottom, rather than the top, of that social gradient in today’s UK. This is what explains the greater incidence of crowded housing, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and all that among those not gammony and is the cause of that higher susceptibility to the current pandemic.
Well, let’s take that as being so for the sake of argument. The next logical leap that is made is that this is clearly the result of structural racism. Why else would society be stratified by skin colour in that manner?
That logical leap is not actually justified. Take this from the ONS page on race and coronavirus, linked to in that Guardian article:
As occupation may change over time, since the 2011 UK Census an analysis of 2019 Annual Population Survey data suggested the Bangladeshi and Pakistani community has increased by approximately 17%, and the Black community by 19%. This is in contrast with the increase in the White population being under 1%.
This is a reflection of a simple truth. Mass immigration into the UK is a relatively recent phenomenon. Well, OK, this wave of it, the arrival of Angles and Saxons might be considered – absent Wales playing at Twickenham – to have been fully integrated by now.
OK, in which society, ever, have recent immigrants been top of the social gradient? Well, quite a lot actually, the Vandals took the top slot in North Africa, the Normans here and so on. But we tend to refer to those not as migrations but as invasions. Where, absent it being organised groups incoming specifically to take control of the society, do we see recent immigrants being top dogs?
Well, quite. That recent immigrants are not top dogs could – sure it could – be a result of structural racism. Occam’s shaving kit would lead to the conclusion that it’s because they’re recent immigrants.
Not that any of this will make any difference for logic and evidence never do in the face of political insistences. The poor huddled masses die of Covid-19 because Britain, probably the least racist society on the planet, or at least among them, is institutionally racist. Innit?