Identity politics as a means of social control is well documented. It is certainly better for Nike's bottom line that their major controversy in the mind of the consumer revolves around their work with a controversial football player as opposed to their disgusting labor practices which include slave and child labor, poverty wages, sweatshops, etc (https://qz.com/1811305/nike-apple-linked-to-forced-uighur-labor-in-china-report-says/). Meanwhile Amazon uses diversity as a part of its union-busting scheme (https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/20/21228324/amazon-whole-foods-unionization-heat-map-union), finding that diverse stores and warehouses are the least likely to attempt to unionize--consider this next time you see a corporation gleefully promote their workforce diversity.
A particularly disgusting example of this phenomenon recently surfaced in the New York Times. With the coronavirus vaccine being rolled out, some difficult decisions have to be made. As the article notes:
"Ultimately, the choice comes down to whether preventing death or curbing the spread of the virus and returning to some semblance of normalcy is the highest priority. “If your goal is to maximize the preservation of human life, then you would bias the vaccine toward older Americans,” "
Given that the almost suspicious degree of deadliness the virus has towards the elderly (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-age.html) I would prioritize getting the vaccine to the elderly, but I can see the other side. Perhaps giving it to those most likely to spread it will ultimately save more lives in the long run even though they themselves are unlikely to die. The CDC opted to prioritize essential workers. While the debate is interesting, what's more interesting is *how* they chose to pitch this decision. Some absolutely ghoulish quotes below:
"Harald Schmidt, an expert in ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, said that it is reasonable to put essential workers ahead of older adults, given their risks, and that they are disproportionately minorities. “Older populations are whiter, ” Dr. Schmidt said. “Society is structured in a way that enables them to live longer. Instead of giving additional health benefits to those who already had more of them, we can start to level the playing field a bit.”"
In other words, prioritizing the vaccine to the elderly would save lives, but those lives would be too white. By letting the elderly die, we can "level the playing field."
Another choice quote:
“Teachers have middle-class salaries, are often very white, and they have college degrees,” he said. “Of course they should be treated better, but they are not among the most mistreated of workers.”
Teachers are too white to deserve the vaccine. But wait! Another expert disagrees! Teachers should have priority because where else will "black and brown" mothers drop off their kids to be raised by the state as they go to their poverty-wage jobs? “When you talk about disproportionate impact and you’re concerned about people getting back into the labor force, many are mothers, and they will have a harder time if their children don’t have a reliable place to go,” she said. “And if you think generally about people who have jobs where they can’t telework, they are disproportionately Black and brown. They’ll have more of a challenge when child care is an issue.”
Perhaps I'm a conspiracy theorist, but I can't help but notice how this decision, like many others, just so HAPPENS to line up with the interests of capital! The elderly, with their fixed incomes, retirements, and slow pace of life, are not typically the consumer or the worker that really keeps the economy going. Meanwhile working age people, especially those of the poor and working class, are the grease that really keeps the wheel moving. And we can't afford for this to slow down any, or else the plutocrats might become slightly less rich. So throw the elderly to the wolves, whatever it takes to keep the worker working. God forbid that the poor and working class get some breathing room--the system MUST continue.
"No, you see, it has nothing to do with which groups are more valuable to capital it has to do with, uhh, hang on, yes, right we are saving black and brown bodies." The man in the top hat and monocle states as he nervously sorts through his notes.
Maybe I'm being uncharitable and their interests really are in saving the highest number of lives in the long term. But still note how they choose to pitch the decision to the generally liberal, well educated, and (ironically) white NYT readership. It's white this, minority that, black the other thing. Appealing to identity politics as a way to hide their true motivations, whether those are fair or foul. Think about this next time you see someone decrying the disproportionate impact something will have on the "black and brown." Maybe they are genuinely concerned...but more likely they just trying to get you to do what they want.