The Dynamics of Racism and COVID19

14/5/20
The Dynamics of Racism and COVID19
Greg Cook

This new GRA sub-project The Dynamics of Racism and COVID19 – aims to explore racism in ourselves and society, continuing an existing GRA project, with particular reference to COVID19.

The blog will be updated weekly and make reference to basic assumption behaviour, the role of familiar socio analytic mechanisms of splitting or ‘othering’, denial, disavowal and other dynamics and the exposure of these in the response of Australian and other international communities to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has more clearly exposed enduring institutional racism, not just in Australia but worldwide – in Trump’s sobriquet for COVID 19 as ‘the Chinese virus’; the disregard for day-wage workers in the Indian lockdown; confusion about how Australia responds to migrant workers; abuse of East-Asian medical workers in Australia and elsewhere; the lack of medical care in remote aboriginal communities in Australia and so on. Internationally we have seen significant linkage of Covid19 mortality and morbidity with ethnicity, race, privilege and class.

These xenophobic responses are common across the world, revealing ‘social and political fractures within communities, with racialised and discriminatory responses to fear, disproportionately affecting marginalised groups’. This is felt particularly keenly within health systems that are inter-dependent with the broader social systems that they support and are well described in this letter in a recent edition of The Lancet.

Societal fault lines have been laid bare and deepened. A barely managed tension in our trust and mistrust of institutions has also become even more apparent – including our political leaders’ reliance and our dependence on expert medical advice.

The Covid 19 pandemic has thrown up many questions of relevance and interest to group relations.

  • What has Covid19 revealed about long-denied social defences embedded in accepted 21st century views about authority and public policy – in political leadership, health care funding, income support, wages policies and globalisation?
  • What is the role of the media and other institutions or groups (including GRA) in:
    • Mobilising denial, fear, isolation and other ‘paranoid-schizoid’ responses
      Hoarding, angry scepticism, defiance of social distancing requirements ….
      versus
    • Appropriate leadership and followership / dependency combined with careful management of interdependence and other ‘depressive position’ responses.
      e.g. Following expert medical advice, social distancing, financial support, mutual concern and care-giving, volunteering, shared creativity, business resilience and innovation, etc.
  • How do our institutions respond to the pandemic and what does this tell us about the phantasies they hold about themselves and on our behalf?
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