Covid highlights systemic biases in healthcare and mortality rates

NewYork/Crouch End writer Carlene Fraser-Harris. Picture: Carlene Fraser-Harris

Carlene Fraser-Harris - Credit: Carlene Fraser-Harris

I find myself in a constant dual of mourning and gratitude, waiting for someone to unplug the fan that the proverbial s*** recently hit.

In the wake of any loss, we’re hard-wired to grasp the things that matter. What has mattered in 2020? What are you grasping as you head into 2021? 

Somewhere between the overall decrease in pollution and fathers spending more time at home with their babes, we have the residual effects of a world suffered of equality and fairness. A place where prejudices persist despite the marches and protests that flitted across the globe last summer. And pre-pandemic attitudes are flourishing, sending us back into lockdown this month, crumpling under the weight of school closures and economic dams.

The hashtag #newyearsameme floated around Twitter during the holidays, sensationalising the idea to debunk new-year fads and to be true to oneself. But after 2020, what is our truth?

Now, I’m not leaning into some existential conversation with this question. Far from it. I like facts. Fact: from here to there, from there to here, racism is still everywhere. And while I did stir in a Dr Seuss rhyme just then, we cannot "fahoo fores dahoo dores" away our woes while holding hands around the ashes of 2020. Sainsbury’s came under rapid fire for a holiday ad that featured a black family in 2020. 

The Covid-19 unemployment rate has disproportionately affected more people of colour in 2020. 

The virus has taken a bright red highlighter to the unconscionable systemic biases in healthcare and mortality rates in 2020. 

Fireworks and drones illuminate the night sky over the The O2 in London as they form a light display

Fireworks and drones illuminate the night sky over the The O2 as the normal New Year's Eve fireworks display was cancelled due to the pandemic - Credit: PA/Victoria Jones

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And we all watched it burn. 

Then we welcomed Christmas and stretched the distancing rules to see our loved ones, happy for a shiny moment and hoping not to have to get back to this regularly scheduled program we’re all starring in. But we all have lead roles and the old script got cancelled. Now what? 

Here’s another fact, a subset of the above: masks and social distance has been an optimal trade for many. More yuck than just our new friendly neighbourhood contagion has been relegated to the confines of our masks. Londoners have shared their silver linings of zero to little abrasive encounters, misunderstandings, discrimination and social mockery.

The facial expressions and condescending tones that accompany negative interactions have all been corralled behind stylish cotton face wear. When masks can finally be a thing of the past, what will our faces say? What words will you give to the woman who brushes against your shoulder at the bookstore? What face will you give that black man in the hoodie? We’re so eager for a world returned to its former glory when 2020 has shown us that it was not glorious at all. Not for a lot of us.

There were no magic wands waved at midnight on December 31. But here’s 2021. Now what? 

  • Carlene Fraser Harris is a Crouch End-based writer.

READ MORE: Classism and racism among north London parents