Check It Out: Are vaccine mandates racist by definition?

by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier

Last week I wrote about how the CDC changed their definition of vaccine. Many called the changes Orwellian. Of course, that’s a reference to a novel where the dictionary was rewritten in order to manipulate public opinion. The definition of racism also continues to change. During the George Floyd riots, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary changed its definition of racism because of a complaint.

A Black graduate student at Drake University told CNN she grew tired of having conversations about racial injustice, just to have people point to the dictionary as a defense for why they are not racist. She said, “I kept having to tell them that the definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world.”

To rectify the problem, the editors of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary decided to add – systemic oppression – to their definition of racism.

The dictionary editors were most likely influenced by the writing of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. Over the past few years, Kendi has made his own contribution to redefining racism. Kendi defines racism as a collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequality, that are substantiated by racist ideas.

Kendi believes racial inequity is evidence of racial policy.



For example, Black residents were stopped and frisked at a disproportional rate under New York Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.

According to Kendi, it didn’t matter what the Stop & Frisk policy intended or if the policy achieved any of its stated goals, the disproportion alone made Stop & Frisk a racist policy that needed to be eliminated. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary will probably use Stop & Frisk as an example of systemic oppression.

Now, there’s another New York policy in question – The Vaccine Passport.

Last month, New York began to enforce their vaccine requirement for workers and customers. Proof of vaccination is required for people entering restaurants, bars, fitness centers, and theaters. The first thing most people questioned was the constitutionality of the mandate, but Black Lives Matter New York denounced the vaccine requirement as an excuse to exclude Black people from restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues.

This may be an overstatement by BLM, but a lot of Black people choose to remain unvaccinated, therefore the mandate will have a disproportional effect on Black residents in New York City. According to Kendi, racial inequity is evidence of racial policy, which means by definition the Vaccine Passport is a systemically racist policy, regardless of its good intentions.

However, when Kendi was asked directly if the vaccine mandate was a racist policy, he said it was hard to say.

Then he said the actual problem wasn’t the vaccine mandate. He claimed Black vaccination rates were low due to the lack of accessibility to the vaccine while Whites remained unvaccinated as a result of their political ideology.

The lack of accessibility isn’t true, but let’s suppose it was.

The vaccine mandate would still disproportionately affect Black residents and the disproportion alone makes the vaccine mandate a racist policy. That’s according to Kendi’s own definition. So, why was it hard for him to say the vaccine mandate was a racist policy?

The fact is, it wasn’t hard for him to say, it’s hard for him to admit that his redefining of racism is incoherent and it actually leads to more confusion than clarity.







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