On Wednesday, May 13th, HNY held its Conversations on Your Couch series with a discussion about “Pandemic and Inequality.” How do inequality and pandemics feed off of each other? Will the lessons we are learning about justice, fairness, and opportunity outlive the virus?
To complement the conversation, we curated a brief selection of stories that examine the complex interconnections between the pandemic and inequality. For those interested in holding there own conversation this could serve as a starting point. Each selection is available to read / listen online, and each is free of charge.
Some readings to get you started…
“The Masque of the Red Death,” by Edgar Allen Poe
Poe’s story of a masquerade ball, held by and for noblemen during a particularly aggressive pandemic, can be read as an allegory about a collision between universality of death and the naivete of privilege.
“Anti-Asian Racism and the Cholera Pandemic of 1817,” by Sagaree Jane
This historical dive into the cholera pandemics of the nineteenth century examines how racialized notions of hygiene and disease transmission are often used as a political and social wedge.
“Inequality Doesn’t Just Make Pandemics Worse – It Could Cause Them,” by Laura Spinney
Spinney, author of a powerful book on the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918, looks at the historical argument for inequality as a pandemic’s catalyst.
“Ill Will,” by Edna Bonhomme
A brief, powerful examination into how empathy can impact how we care for the sick, and how the racialization of illness can work to thwart that empathy.
“The Dangerous History of Immunoprivilege,” by Katheryn Olivarious
As the scientific community rushes to create vaccines and antibody tests, to keep people free of Covid-19 or to confirm that someone has had the disease, a series of ethical questions are coming into focus. This essay examines the dishonorable history of issuing immunity from disease to support social inequality.
“Covid-19 Accentuates Barriers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing,” by Liora Engel-Smith
An overview of the unique difficulties and barriers faced by the deaf community.
“A Terrible Price: The Deadly Racial Disparities of Covid-19 in America,” Linda Villarosa
A longform piece that focuses on New Orleans, a hotspot.
“If One of Us Gets Sick, We All Get Sick: The Food Workers on the Coronavirus Front Line,” Mya Frazier
The long struggle for workplace equity in America’s food supply chain seen in the context of Covid-19.
The New Yorker Radio Hour: The Injustice of Covid-19
A short segment on how Covid-19 has exposed fault lines in our healthcare system.
Above: David Meredith Reese, “A Plain and practical treatise on the epidemic cholera as it prevailed in the city of New York in the summer of 1832.” Stanford University.
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Reading list compiled by Michael Washburn, Director of Programs, with help from fellow HNY staff members.