Pandemic is a wake-up call on inequality
Bridget Byrne has called for urgent action to tackle the root causes of inequality which have led to people from ethnic and racial minorities suffering much greater harms from COVID-19 and the economic and social responses to the pandemic.
She says that 'one of the lessons of the pandemic is that racism and racial inequality kill' but that we are now at a pivotal point where we can choose, together, to make real changes.
The experience of the past year has forced policymakers, politicians and the general public to realise that some groups are much harder hit by the pandemic than others, leading to a much wider recognition of the widespread effects of racism. We are now seeing some major institutions take steps to address these inequalities.
She points to our new understanding of which jobs matter to keep our society functioning as another wake-up call. We learned how much we depended on the nurses, shopkeepers and taxi drivers who kept working despite the risks, and often these people are from racialised backgrounds. These people suffered higher exposure to the virus, as well as carrying disadvantages which pre-date the pandemic, such as poorer housing and insecure employment.
Post-pandemic recovery needs to take account of pre-existing inequalities to truly 'build back better'. The Centre for Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) is carrying out the biggest survey of ethnic and religious minority experience in the UK in order to understand the impact of COVID-19 on minoritised groups.