The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Perceiving Privilege in A Pandemic

by Staff Writers Megh Basu & Sreetama Chowdhury

Quarantine until summer? A “bunch of bullsh*t,” according to actress Vanessa Hudgens. She’s far from the only person to express that sentiment — on March 10, a TikTok of Fordham University students lounging on campus after a university-issued evacuation order went viral, and excessive numbers of spring breakers on beaches in Florida and Australia eventually forced authorities to close the beaches down. 

@rileylynnmIf this doesn’t go viral something is wrong w TikTok ##fyp ##corona ##newyork ##darty♬ Its Corona Time – Red Knight


As the COVID-19 outbreak worsened in March, states across the country implemented shelter-in-place orders and schools closed nationwide, but young people around the world have been seemingly nonchalant about the growing pandemic. Because of the widespread attitude that younger people are less at risk from COVID-19, they feel less obligated to take precautionary measures against the disease, which  is irresponsible since it not only risks the individual’s health but also the health of other people. Though this is the most recent example of abusing privilege, it goes to show how we must develop an awareness of our advantages in order to help those who are less privileged. 

What exactly is privilege, and why does it matter? Societal privilege grants certain people access to better or more resources, with the privilege often being based on certain factors such as their gender, race, or socioeconomic status. In the MSJ community specifically, most of us are able-bodied, healthy young adults, which makes us less likely to be severely affected by the virus — those who are elderly, immunocompromised, or have existing health issues are significantly more vulnerable to the disease. Not only that, many of us in the MSJ community are fairly well-off financially. We’re lucky enough that most of us are able to afford healthcare and are able to survive in quarantine without having to work for a daily wage. We are also privileged enough to have the ability to socially distance at home — people in impoverished areas may not be able to social distance due to cramped living spaces or the need to go to work.

This privilege means we find it easy to ignore COVID-19 warnings and continue to go out with friends even though it may put others at risk — ultimately putting our personal desires above what is better for people who are disadvantaged. For many of us, the biggest casualty of the COVID-19 crisis is the cancellation of events we were looking forward to — the senior Ashland trip and Multicultural Week, for example. Though high schoolers are absolutely allowed to be upset about missed events, the fact that these events are, for many of us, our biggest loss is a privilege in and of itself. We need to see the bigger picture — although we’re losing time with our friends, our first priority needs to be staying safe and keeping those around us safe. No matter how frustrating self-isolation may be, choosing to break quarantine and meet up with other people is an unacceptable abuse of privilege. If we stay at home instead, we can use our privilege to protect others who are more susceptible.

Acknowledging one’s privilege is the first step to helping others who are not as privileged. It’s not just a  passive realization — we need to actively unlearn assumptions, do our research, and stop taking things for granted. We need to carry this acknowledgement and awareness into our actions, considering consequences not just for us but for the people around us. As it relates to the current pandemic, we must recognize how we benefit from privilege, whether as a teenager with few existing health issues or someone who can stay home and is financially stable. From there, by practicing social distancing and staying healthy, we must use our advantages to help those who do not share the same privileges.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *