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The Price of Autonomy: Pandemic Privilege

What is Pandemic Privilege (PP)? It is having access to the resources and the financial stability to abide by COVID-19 restrictions without affecting one’s overall socioeconomic stability. For those who do not have PP, following restrictions is difficult, and these difficulties can further become evermore apparent depending on where one falls on the ‘ladder of oppression’. This is one of many reasons why COVID-19 has emphasized that Disability Justice is necessary to truly understand the inequity often concealed by those with power and why we should strive for radical change.

Intersectionality helps us to better understand that the influence of oppressive systems of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism are just three ways in which experiences of oppression have been manifested and are racialized, gendered, ableist and sexist. When referring to colonialism, those within the disabled BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) community are more prone to facing systemic racism and ableism within Canada’s health care systems. An example that relates to patriarchy could be how women who have children are more likely to take on extra domestic pressures as many families are navigating home and work life balances because of stay-at-home orders. From a capitalistic standpoint, we have seen the extremely wealthy profit from the pandemic, while those who were already financially insecure pre-COVID-19 are facing even more economic tottering. Additionally, what ties all these variables together to truly understand the dichotomy between ‘the haves’ and ‘have nots’ is who has the privilege and autonomy to keep one’s own body and dependants safe from contracting COVID-19.

Let us dig deeper into the realities of those who have the financial security to protect themselves from COVID-19 and those who do not. The following chart is meant to highlight some of the economic barriers that can be correlated with exposure to COVID-19, depending on financial factors.

When dissecting the PP chart, Sins Invalid’s 10 Tenets of Disability Justice is a great tool to follow to address issues and find tangible solutions for the problems at hand. Beyond the importance of using an Intersectional approach as mentioned before, using Anti-Capitalist Politics is important too. The structures of capitalism aid in the negligence of subjugated communities to benefit a select few, which in turn, makes these groups more prone to experiencing poverty and disenfranchisement. An anti-capitalist approach would prioritize the wellbeing of the most vulnerable, not the commodification of their productive capacity.

Additionally, Cross Movement Solidarity is also key to addressing these disparities. Those who have partaken in Disability Justice had been advocating for years to highlight living in a society that creates disabilities for the impaired. For instance, working from home went from “impossible” to “mandatory” during the pandemic. This highlights two things. One, it emphasizes that socially constructed systems can be destructed or replumbed; and two, there is much to learn from those who have been doing the ‘work’ all along. Nevertheless, at the root of these issues, there is commonalities. Cross Movement Solidarity is beneficial to addressing and creating tangible change throughout groups facing similar subjugation. Although every individual’s experience is unique, there is the possibility to collectively share solutions by collaborating to bring all experiences to the table.

Although some may believe the issues facing marginalized groups have been a result of the pandemic, in reality, these disparities have been here all along. However, COVID-19 has shone a bright spotlight on the need for urgent systemic and economic re-evaluation within our own communities in which institutions of power have historically been indifferent to addressing in a proactive way. With the momentum that is build from Intersectional awareness, Cross Movement Solidarity, and the promotion of Anti-Capitalist Politics, there is hope that calling for radical change will not be so taboo in the future.

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