Pandemic and privilege

Photo: Artem Podrez, Pexels. Photo: Artem Podrez, Pexels.

Is justice really at the heart of this crisis, the pandemic?

A friend of mine has been sharing the inhumane treatments she receives lately from fellow Americans, and it breaks my heart.

There has been a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans. The crimes often are ignored or not reported because the victims fear being targeted again.

The pandemic has exposed prejudice, racism and bigotry against marginalized populations.
And yet, many others have experienced it differently.

In my Feb. 22 column, I invited readers to share how they have experienced the pandemic.
Clare Ann Ruth-Heffelbower, newly retired conference minister of Mennonite Church USA’s Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference, penned this response, “Reflections on Privilege”:

“On a Wednesday night in January, someone in our small group meeting on Zoom shared that she and her husband had appointments for their COVID-19 vaccinations the following Saturday. She had heard from a physician in our congregation that vaccinations were available to people over 65.

“My husband and I were eager to get our vaccinations. I checked Saturday, the following Monday, then backed up to Friday. Nothing available.

“I decided to check Thursday — the next day. There were two or three slots scattered throughout the day. I quickly tried to register for one, thinking that my husband and I would go at separate times. It looked like my attempt failed. Then I received an email confirming my appointment.

“I quickly went back to the website to see if I could make an appointment for my husband. There was just one a half-hour after mine. I tried to take it.
“There was a problem. I had to start the registration process for him over again. That happened twice. Finally, we both had an appointment for the next day — 30 minutes apart, so it would mean only one trip to the fairgrounds’ vaccination site.

“If it were not for the inside information we received and my years of experience with computer technology, I could not have made our appointments that quickly — or at all.
“I have a friend who needs a COVID-19 vaccination much more than I do. He is a formerly incarcerated gentleman who is over 75. He recently had hip surgery and uses a walker. He depends on public transportation to get around. His phone is his connection to the internet, and his technological skills are weak.

“After he heard that I had gotten my shot, he asked about the process of making an appointment. He also asked how far he needed to walk. Yesterday he texted me to tell me he had gotten his first shot. It was six weeks after I got mine.

“I have become aware on numerous occasions how much my privilege has impacted my experience of the pandemic. As a white, educated, economically stable person, the pandemic has been an inconvenience. But it has not turned my life upside down.

“I am grateful that life as I experience it has continued to be good and that we are healthy. I am humbled to realize the impact of the pandemic on many people is much different. Many do not share the privilege I have. I am challenged to use my undeserved privilege to work for justice and peace for all.”

Clare Ann recognizes her privilege and understands she can use it for good or ill.

My thoughts turn to the words of God and Cain: “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’ ” (Genesis 4:9).

There are many among us like Clare Ann’s friend who was incarcerated — people whom our society does not entirely accept. There are friends who have no experience with computers or access to one. Their priority is a daily meal; technology is a luxury. There are our Asian Abels who are mistreated, injured or even killed by our brother Cain.

God requires brotherly and sisterly love. Because God so loved the world, Jesus laid down his life for you and for your brother and sister.

“Let us then pursue what makes for peace” (Romans 14:19).

Yes, justice is at the heart of the pandemic.

Anthonia Onye

Anthonia Onye is regional minister for Southern California for Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference. Read More

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