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As societies across the world began to face the growing fears of the coronavirus pandemic, studies in the US began to surface about the prevalence of infection among Indigenous peoples and communities of color.

Among all people of color, it was found across many media sources that COVID-19 is more than five times more likely to kill black people. 

Coincidentally, as one viral disease in America appeared to fade away, another social disease immediately surfaced following the circulated video of a black man being killed at the hands of police officers.

What does it say about the prevalence and severity of systemic racism when the communities most at-risk for contracting the virus are willing to put themselves in danger to fight for the life-threatening disease of discrimination?

At the start of the COVID-19 panic, governors from states like California, New York and Hawai‘i released heartfelt pleas, asking their residents to stay home to flatten the curve of infections and prevent the collapse of our already fractured healthcare system.

Although the presence of COVID-19 continued to rise, it didn’t take long before so-called American patriots determined that their rights and privileges as free Americans were being stolen from them. Small protests of gun-toting freedom-fighters began to take to the streets to protest state-mandated business closures, stay-at-home orders and the recommendation of protective masks. 

The racial pandemic

Just as concerns for the coronavirus began to dwindle, a racial pandemic that these at-risk communities have faced for hundreds of years began to take center stage.

The video released to the public in May documenting George Floyd's fatal arrest in Minneapolis sparked outrage that quickly crossed state lines and eventually led to protests around the globe. 

It is no secret that Indigenous and Black communities have faced a myriad of injustices that have haunted them well after the abolishment of slavery. These intangible injustices were quickly and clearly demonstrated in the 10-minute video that consumed televisions and hand-held devices.

As this uprising became heated, strictly enforced curfews were put into place for the fear of violence and looting. 

Those who resisted the orders were met with teargas and rubber bullets, and potentially the chance of contracting the virus that seemed to still be lingering in our communities. 

As protests grew, Fox News began to cover the potential risk of growing infections, pointing the finger at anti-racist rallies. In an article titled “Dr. Saphier predicts impact of protests on coronavirus spread will be known in 'next two weeks,'” the media outlet reported, “The U.S. has seen a 36.5 percent increase in daily cases in recent days amid street protests…” despite acknowledging that the protests are in compliance with lifted stay-at-home orders in many states.

The decision to speak out and protest against racial injustices was seen as a nuisance to some. The same community that refused to stay inside for the sake of public health condoned the use of military-style force when protestors were seen defying orders to stay at home.

The narrative looks very different when comparing the anti-stay-at-home order protests and the anti-racist uprising. 

One group storms government buildings wielding guns and defying orders meant to keep a community healthy, demanding haircuts and manicures. They were praised as “very good people” by President Donald Trump. 

It is not hard to understand the angry demonstrations from the anti-racist protestors when their protests for a fair chance at life were met with the consequence of being regarded as nothing more than “terrorists” and “thugs.”

More divided than ever

It is easy to see that the clashing pandemics have given Americans another area of division within our own borders.

Many people thought that the coronavirus pandemic would be the glue to hold together a nation that has been torn apart by politics. How could an issue that affects everyone cause so much divisiveness?

There is a clear disconnect when it comes to American values and what each “side” deems important. 

The demand for trips to the beach and a clean haircut seem to surpass the necessity for grandma’s health in the eyes of the freedom fighters, while liberals forfeit their rights to such luxuries with health and safety in mind. At some point the left has prioritized safety over liberty and the right has favored the opposite.

It’s hard to determine how this turned political. 

Does the refusal to abide by CDC recommendations to wear protective masks by our most prominent leaders downplay the severity of the pandemic? Do we frown upon said leaders to align with another political agenda, even at the expense of our country’s economy? 

As we learn to navigate the world through the eyes of our “new normal,” it is important that we ask ourselves why we stand so firmly behind decisions that may do harm to the greater good. Refusing to view the concerns of others prevents us from recognizing what drives them to value some aspects of life over others.