The rationale for modern civil rights lawsuits is the concept of disparate impact on minorities. De jure discrimination and desegregation disappeared in the United States more than a half-century ago. In the wake of that triumph, activists moved from opposing “Jim Crow” laws that specifically targeted minorities — and in particular, African Americans — to advocacy and litigation that sought to target laws and practices that they claim produce negative outcomes for minorities, even if, on the surface, the laws were not discriminatory.
It is this concept that is the driving force behind claims that laws that seek to protect the integrity of the vote, including those that require voters to produce photo IDs, are discriminatory.
Yet now that a nation apparently intent on enacting far-reaching rules about vaccination that will in effect determine who is allowed to attend schools, public events, and sports and arts performances, or to enter places of business and public accommodations, the same voices are silent about the way the rules will affect the lives of minorities who were targeted by the racist laws of the past.
That’s because effectively missing from most discussions of proposals to ban the unvaccinated from the public square is the fact that while approximately half of all whites are vaccinated, only 40 percent of African Americans have received at least one shot, the lowest percentage of any ethnic or racial group.
To those who are afraid of coronavirus and especially the new delta variant, calls to exclude the unvaccinated are common sense. Approximately 72 percent of adult Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine and a majority are considered fully vaccinated.
As we have learned in recent months, however, being vaccinated does not prevent catching or spreading the virus. But it does reduce the chance of suffering severe symptoms, being hospitalized, or dying. Even being partially vaccinated reduces the chances of a bad outcome.
The Morality of Forcing the Unvaccinated into Hiding
That makes a powerful argument in favor of vaccination. But the question of whether those who choose not to be vaccinated should be forced out of public life is a complicated legal and moral issue.
If the vaccines were an absolute guarantee of safety and totally prevented those with the shots from spreading or catching the disease, then it could be argued that the unvaccinated would not endanger those who were vaccinated. But if it can be argued that unvaccinated persons help spread the virus more easily than the vaccinated, then draconian rules start to seem reasonable to those who had hoped that getting the shots would ensure the return of normal life. Fear of the delta variant is part of this debate too.
Vaccine mandates are already here. Many private businesses such as sports or arts venues are already requiring them. Some cities are promulgating such rules for civil service workers and entry into public events. New York is promulgating a “key to NYC Pass” to work or dine out. The same is true for many colleges, which are either requiring vaccinations or subjecting the unvaccinated to oppressive rules that marginalize those who don’t obey.
Mandate advocates scoff at those who say this transforms the unvaccinated into a new class of persons subject to discrimination. They say that those who endanger public health are not a protected class and that the new rules are both legally justified by the public health emergency and the only way to prevent lockdowns.
But missing from this discussion is any willingness to consider the disproportionate impact of the mandates on minorities.
In most of the mainstream media, resistance to vaccines is being treated as synonymous with Trumpism. Statistics show that Republicans are more skeptical about vaccines than Democrats. But the divide between the parties is not as great as the one between the races.
Most on the left put this down to lack of access to vaccines. However, vaccines are widely available virtually everywhere in the United States, and that includes urban centers where racial minorities predominate. Instead, African Americans don’t trust the authorities as readily as white Americans or even Hispanics do because in the past especially black people were treated as guinea pigs for scientists, such as with the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study.
How Is This Not Discriminating Against Black People?
If you were to transpose the racial differences on vaccination to any other issue, liberals would regard them as definitive proof of a discriminatory impact. They would be quick to call those behind any such rules as racist for treating a large number of minorities as American untouchables to be hounded out of public life and excluded from restaurants, public performances, jobs and school.
Instead, it is precisely those who echo President Joe Biden’s absurd claims that voter ID laws are “Jim Crow on steroids” who have no qualms about backing rules that would actively discriminate against far more blacks than whites. Why are white liberals suddenly indifferent to disparate impact?
As we learned in the last year, many Americans care more about their safety or the perception of it than they do about their constitutional rights. The educated classes — who worked from home without loss of income while the working class and poor had to endanger themselves by working “essential jobs” — care even less about the rights of others, even if they are African Americans, if they think such discrimination will make their lives easier or safer.
The blind support for vaccine passports from upper and middle-class white liberals not only exposes the hypocrisy of the Democrats’ stance on voter integrity laws. It also illustrates their utter indifference to the lives and the rights of huge numbers of minorities, whom they otherwise claim to care so much about.