I started calling myself a “wypipologist” as a joke...kinda.
While the burgeoning field of white studies might seem like a joke, I stand by my belief that one cannot understand America’s unique form of racial antagonism by studying Black people. It is white people who created it. White people perpetuate it. And, only in analyzing them can one truly understand the white American mutation of white supremacy.
For instance, the Biden administration’s coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients recently prioritized putting COVID-19 vaccinations sites in “minority communities that have suffered a disproportionately high toll of disease and deaths from the virus.” The administration probably studied census tracts, data on racial medical disparities and talked to experts on healthcare in non-white communities. The result was a reconfigured vaccine rollout to communities with Black and brown residents who they hoped would overcome the non-white reluctance surrounding the vaccines. Seems like a good idea, right?
See, you don’t study white people.
Any high-level wypipologist would tell you that the loophole-finding tradition in Caucasian culture can defeat such a simple-minded plan. There are numerous reports from cities and neighborhoods across the country of a new phenomenon called “vaccine gentrification”—white people invading vaccination centers in majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods to cut in front of the people who are hardest hit by COVID-19.
Somehow, white Americans have found a way to gentrify the coronavirus vaccine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black people are more likely to contract the coronavirus, nearly four times more likely to be hospitalized and almost three times more likely to die from COVID-19. While African Americans make up a disproportionate percentage of the labor force in long-term care facilities, healthcare employees, and essential workers, on Monday, the CDC reported that an astonishingly low 5.4 percent of the people who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine are Black.
Of course, the prevailing narrative of the media’s coronavirus coverage has centered on Black America’s reluctance to take the coronavirus vaccine. But when The Root compared the data from states that report vaccination by race with the state’s demographics, we learned that even when Black Americans are willing to get vaccinated, their efforts to inoculate themselves against the deadly virus are thwarted—not by “big government” or “the man”—but by plain old white privilege.
According to KFF, 35 percent of Black Americans said they already received a vaccine dose or wanted to be inoculated “as soon as possible,” compared to 53 percent of white Americans. To find the “real vaccination rate,” we used Census Bureau numbers, individual state health departments’ latest vaccination reports and KFF’s polling data, and adjusted state vaccination rates for vaccine hesitancy. (A recent Monmouth University poll had the rate at 58 percent for whites and 52 percent for “people of color.” We don’t quite know what that means, so we used the lower rate.)
The disparities fell considerably. But even when factoring in African Americans’ reluctance, 18 of the 23 states reporting racial vaccine distribution data are vaccinating white residents at higher rates. In the five states where vaccines appear to be equitably distributed (Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon and Vermont), the reason is immediately clear:
They don’t have very many Black people.
Four of the states with the lowest disparities have Black populations of less than 3 percent. (With a Black population of only 7 percent, Massachusetts is still pretty white.) Apparently, the only way for a Black person to be vaccinated in America is to be the only Black person in America.
In states with significant Black populations, the disparities are starker. Take North Carolina, for instance, a state with the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths per capita over the last week, according to the New York Times:
- North Carolina’s white residents account for 63 percent of the population, 62 percent of the cases, 58 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations but 80 percent of the state’s vaccinations.
- Meanwhile, Black North Carolinians make up 21 percent of the state’s COVID cases 32 percent of the hospitalizations but only received 13 percent of the state’s supply of the vaccine.
- For every Black person vaccinated in North Carolina, two white people receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Even when we factored in those who are reluctant, white North Carolinians are still nearly one and a half times more likely to be inoculated.
In Florida, Maryland and New Jersey, white residents who want to be vaccinated are twice as likely to receive the vaccine as their Black counterparts. In Pennsylvania, the white-Black disparity is five to one. Again, these disparities don’t just affect Black communities. If the people who are more likely to contract the virus are being vaccinated at lower rates, the virus will continue to spread, putting all Americans at risk.
The data is clear. If you want to survive the coronapocalypse, you have to learn how to colonize the vaccine.
Or, if you’re really desperate, you can just study white people.