The Coronavirus Conversation Has Got to Get a Lot More Inclusive

So far, the public discourse on coronavirus is focused on middle-class inconveniences and political spats

an ecoWURD feature

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Even as cities and states such as Philadelphia go into a more extreme “stay-at-home” lockdown posture, conventional media coverage around the impact of coronavirus remains a very White middle-class affair.

Of course, society-at-large understands how severe the pandemic is, how fast it’s spreading, and it’s comparatively very high kill rate compared to the flu. Yet, the public conversation around it centers more on what’s inconvenient and who’s been inconvenienced than the still immeasurable destruction in more exposed communities that’s taking place.

Hence, “corporate” media coverage has not been holistic, all that responsible or responsive or compassionate. The only audiences that appear to count are mostly White, somewhat affluent and frantically managing coronavirus as a bump in the road.  So, if it’s not tips on social distancing and the merits of remote work, it’s how quarantines will lead to baby booms or divorce, or the benefits of life “slowing down,” or how we’ll need to use parks, it’s listicle-size shaming efforts showing who failedat social distancing and celebrities pulling a fool on social media … or it’s politicians distance hugging their celebrity friends, or the thousands, despite warnings, who couldn’t stay still and went for a cherry blossom stroll anyway. When it’s not all of the above, reporters are obsessed with useless White House briefings spreading misinformation or open political spats between lawmakers.

Some of this is occasionally informative and, perhaps, for a few moments, worth a light, entertaining distraction. But, such coverage has – as it has traditionally done with news of climate change disasters – put the collective experience of more distressed, low-income and front-line populations on the back burner. Even as a quarter of Philadelphia residents, for example, are marginalized by deep poverty, their individual stories of struggle and resilience (while faced with impending economic meltdown) are marginalized as well.  Many of these first weeks of social distancing, self-quarantining and the shutdown of essential businesses (while streets became ghost towns) were captured in media portraits of young urban professional adventurism. The gravity of what’s transpiring in more distressed hoods and settings has not settled in … at all – local news outlets aren’t venturing into Philly’s Nicetown section or Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhoods. This is no different from how New Orleans’ low-income Black communities were completely forgotten and left behind during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – until it boiled over to the point where no one, including the president, could ignore it anymore.

Read the full piece here at ecoWURD …

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