As we know the virus has altered more activities and affected more economic sectors than we can quickly recall. One is the movie industry searching for how productions could safely resume. Universal Studios latest sequel to Jurassic World can perhaps now set an example, or at least answer some questions. The $200 million production spent $9 million making sure cast and crew would be safe. It issued a 107-page manual and involved the cast in the preparations something that is usually not done. They rented a hotel, and the staff is tested. The cast and crew are tested Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The sets are restricted in the same ways they usually are when intimate scenes are shot. The cast puts on their own microphones. The set is sprayed with sanitizer daily and contacts are minimized in all ways possible. It’s not the details I found relevant, although most of us do enjoy a peek behind the scenes of movie making. What is relevant to all of us is that they did it. They found ways around the norms in order to be safe and do what is necessary to keep the virus at bay. And they did it in a way that is not as expensive as one might think. The cost added less than 5% to their budget.
I chose this article to base my post upon because it’s
a reminder and a harbinger. Despite the demands and lack of social distancing
inherent in movie production, the measures taken in this case bode well for the
economy, certainly, but even more important, bode well for virus protection. They
point the way for us to find ways to adjust. Many are rebelling, in denial or
complacent, and here is a concrete example to help us accept that normal is now
different, and most of all, an example that says yes, we can live with this
Early in July the city of Memphis unanimously passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. In 1866 Memphis was the site of a massacre where dozens of black people were raped and killed by white terrorists and in 1968 it was where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, thus drawing a line from the past to the present at a time when coronavirus is disproportionately affecting Black residents. Over 50 cities have passed similar resolutions declaring racism a public health crisis, these cities are in urban centers, as well in in rural areas, with various sizes and demographics, such as a cluster of small towns in Connecticut, and contain surprises such as the Douglas County Board of Health in Nebraska.
In June an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine addressed the health effects of
being subjected to racism and discrimination and declared that they can lead to
brain disease, “accelerate aging and impede vascular and renal function” thus
drawing attention to the stresses and difficulties affecting African Americans
and other minority populations. The resolutions are not binding, yet their
impetus being inspired by the research of scientific journals nevertheless make
them one step on our journey to redress the wrongs of racism.
Prompted by the protest, ideas for needed changes are
being talked about, written about and thought about. Here are three examples.
The NYT has been running a series called The America We Need. In that vein, a recent editorial by David Leonhardt addressed new research documenting the wage gap between blacks and whites since the gap is as large now as it was in the 50’s during segregation. Several ideas are being put forth by economists and others: Raising the pay for all working families, asking the wealthy to let go of legacy college admissions and favorable tax treatment, which among other things increase inequality, or even adopt profit sharing plans.
The Chamber of Commerce which has become a powerful conservative lobbying group, has published a report on the opportunities gap that hinders black Americans. It highlights that for blacks unemployment is twice that of whites. Blacks represent 12% of US workers but only 9% of business owners and have a much harder time obtaining financing. The Chamber has held events trying to find solutions.
Meanwhile the BBC carried a piece by Tara Westover where she calls attention to the changes needed to build a world where we can be one people, she talks about how Covid-19 has affected minorities disproportionately and asks us to rethink changes in education, so that we can end up in a world where class, education and profession do not divide us.
It’s hard to know what the results will be but it’s
encouraging that talk of changes is coming from many different sources.
I woke up one morning as many surely do with a heavy heart—the persistence of racial injustice, a mismanaged pandemic and an administration which systematically depreciates and debases democratic institutions. Then as I do every day, I looked at my email and the newsletters it contains. I learned that 81% of people in Malawi are more concerned about hunger than they are about getting the virus. In Venezuela, hearses with coffins had to stop in the middle of streets, having run out of gas which is now in very short supply. There too fear of being infected is second to hunger. In Yemen and Syria to name but two, the ruination of the countries economically and politically makes it near impossible to be able to have any kind of normalcy. And then I realized that not since the civil rights movement has there been so much commitment and awareness to resolve racial injustice, that a vaccine, at least one, will be found and we shall be able to live more safely again, that we will eventually be rid of this administration and even if the country is in tatters by then (as it surely will) we shall still be standing. And I realized one more thing that the problems of the US will end up far more easily resolved than those of Malawi, Venezuela, Yemen or Syria. That said, my heart is still heavy for those millions suffering unjustly.