Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced the first wide-scale vaccine passport system in the U.S., the so-called “Excelsior Pass.” The few objections from the left to this scheme are not concerned with the inherent impracticality and immorality of regulating personal behavior, but with the disproportionate impact the requirement will have on certain minorities. In the Critical Race Theory framework, that makes it inherently White Supremacist.
A few grifters have come out of the woodwork to call vaccine passports racist, most notably the mayor of Boston. But this time Twitter and the media have generally decided that it isn’t really worth hearing about this time. Apparently, racism is no longer a bigger “public health crisis” than Covid, unlike a year ago when Covid deaths were much higher. The most visible manifestation of these arguments is actually a parody/hoax that circulates under #askmewhy, courtesy of the 4Chan trolls. They are are ridiculous, but at the same time are a pretty convincing facsimile of actual arguments used by BLM and similar groups about other topics.
But the case that vaccine passports are White Supremacist are indisputable if you understand the world through the Critical Theory framework. 39% of black New Yorkers are vaccinated versus 53% of whites, a ratio that is similar to the national average, though each state can differ widely. This difference means that a policy requiring proof of vaccination from everyone is systemically racist. Pointing out that vaccination status is an objective, racially-neutral standard is “the myth of color blindness.”
The parts of critical legal theory and critical race theory that focus on law and policy are founded on the quest to show that seemingly neutral laws and universally beneficial norms are actually systems of racism. Their modus operandi is to find any inequity – any statistical difference between races other than average melanin – and connect it to a law/policy/norm that has a “disproportionate impact.” By dint of having a disproportionate impact, that law/policy/norm is assumed to be rooted in White Supremacy.
For example, if a bar in New York checks everyone’s proof of vaccine along with proof of age at the front door, this would mean fewer Black and Latino patrons would be allowed entry because fewer of them are vaccinated. Requiring proof of vaccination is White Suppremecist because it has a “disproportionate impact” because those allowed entry would include a disproportionate number of Whites and Asians. It’s just like making the bar “whites only,” except somehow, the structures of systemic racism erected to perpetuate White Suppremecy find a way to favor Asians, 82% of whom are vaccinated.
These are the logical implications of the Critical Race Theory that Democratic politicians found so useful to hit their opponents with back in 2020 to rally their base and scare independents. If it wasn’t obvious six months ago it should be obvious now that the politicians who claimed that requiring ID to vote was racist didn’t really mean it. Some of them are even claiming the bogeyman Fox News made that up out of thin air. If voter ID is “Jim Crow 2.0” then vaccine passports are Jim Crow 3.0.
On average, fewer Blacks choose to get vaccinated than Whites, which is the obvious cause of the discrepancy in the impact of vaccine passports. There’s a cultural difference underlying this difference in choices, and it’s far more tangibly linked to the racism of decades and even centuries past than to modern policies.
The legacy of slavery and discrimination in the 100 years after emancipation has led to the disproportionate prominence of what Thomas Sowell identified as “redneck culture” in Black communities. Southern and transplanted inner-city Blacks inherited culture and language from the Scotch-Irish immigrants who constituted most of the poor Whites they lived alongside in the south. “Black ghetto” culture, according to Sowell, is rooted in the dysfunctional “redneck culture” rather than embedded in the skin. (See Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals for a look at the cultural influences of “redneck culture” and J. D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy, for a look at this culture in modern poor White communities.)
Looking at vaccination numbers, the prevalence of redneck culture is a stronger predictor of vaccination than race. New York Blacks have similar vaccination numbers (39%) to Mississippi Whites (38%) and Mississippi Blacks (39%). Culture, not race or racism, or even government policy, can explain most if not all of the discrepancy in vaccination numbers.
But critical theory adherents like Boston Mayor Kim Janey prefer to attribute all discrepancies to racism. Janey compared vaccine passports to slavery-era freedom papers and birtherism. “There’s a long history in this country of people needing to show their papers,” she said, referring to New York’s policy.
Mayor de Blasio, who just five months ago announced a Racial Justice Commission to dissect New York City’s charter in search of structural and institutional racism, now says Janey and other activists accusing his policies of perpetuating structural racism – policies that very clearly have a disproportionate impact – is “absolutely inappropriate.”
Politicians like de Blasio have scoffed at the Critical Racial Theory activists they “stood alongside” last year, now that those activists might hinder, rather than help, their attempts to exercise control. It turns out that for those who crave power, CRT really is “just a tool.” Not a tool for academic analysis, but a tool to try to “dismantle systems of oppression” that get in the way of politicians’ consolidation of power, like the Senate Fillibuster. But critical theory is a dangerous tool that may even have a mind of its own, as some cynical politicians may find out.