Professor of Religion, Religion Department, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa
Blame the victim: When systemic injustice ceases to be a culprit
Covid-19 was initially treated as the great equalizer, with inspirational statements like “we are all in this together” and “we stand strong” in light of adversity. If nothing else, the pandemic caused by the corona virus has laid bare the social, racial, economic, and gender inequalities that plague us also in non-pandemic times. When social distancing was heralded as a necessity to flatten the curve, it also exposed the naked truth that not all human beings are entitled to the same prerogatives: not all workers are able to work remotely, not all have the right and access to unemployment benefits, not all infected have access to health care, and not everybody has a home to self-quarantine. A common stratagem in explaining the increasing numbers in contamination and death due to Covid-19 has been to blame the victims. Emphasizing a person’s conditions – such as poor health, chronic illness, obesity, homelessness, age, etc – places an onus on the individual without acknowledging the systemic inequalities that lead to these conditions in the first place. Personal vulnerability is labelled as the culprit for massive numbers of casualties due to Covid-19 instead of naming the social and political abandonment that has relegated victims to their historically ascribed place.