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Posted by: anybody ( )
Date: October 05, 2021 07:36PM

On Monday, David Leonhardt’s morning newsletter for the New York Times introduced a grim new term into our pandemic vocabularies: “Red COVID.” The partisan gap in the effects of the pandemic, the newsletter explained, had widened. “Every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state,” Leonhardt wrote. Some of the red dots on the Times’ chart of states with low vaccination rates are not in the South—Wyoming, for example. But most of them are: Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi. After a late summer and early fall where the delta variant hit the former Confederacy hard, generating awful news stories from hospitals in Mississippi and Florida, it seems like “Red COVID” is also, mostly, “Southern COVID.”

In light of this, a thought experiment by Angie Maxwell, a professor of political science and director of the Diane Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas, has been on my mind. In her book The Indicted South: Public Criticism, Southern Inferiority, and the Politics of Whiteness, Maxwell, through a provocative analysis of Southern history and psychology, explores the idea that the white South has a collective “inferiority complex” that explains its very specific tendency toward backlash.

All of that, the intense scrutiny and the extreme circumstances, basically resulted in a movement for private religious education. There was an organization that decided they wanted to create a memorial to William Jennings Bryan, and they built a private Christian university called William Jennings Bryan College, in Dayton. It opened its doors five years later, in 1930, and took off, became a model for private Christian higher education. The anti-evolution movement was no longer about majoritarianism, winning the passage of legislation to ban the teaching of evolution in public schools; it became about creating an entirely separate world of private higher education.

And that’s an example of what can happen when you’re deemed inferior, and you recognize it. This is about the desire to retreat from the public battle, into kind of a private space where you can do whatever you want to do. We see that pattern, also, right after Brown v. Board: just privatize, so you won’t be judged.

OK, we went all the way back in time, and now let’s come back forward to COVID. The delta variant has hit the South, and the rest of “red America,” a lot harder than other places. Do you think the South’s relative refusal to vaccinate, while the criticism from blue states and the North has gotten incredibly intense, can fit into the pattern you’ve identified: Northern criticism, Southern retrenchment?

People have been talking a lot about partisanship in vaccine resistance. But there are 60 percent of Republicans that have been vaccinated, right? Not 10 percent! 60 percent! So it’s not just partisanship. There are demographic reasons why groups are resistant to the vaccine, but I think there are also historical and kind of cosmological reasons that account for why most of the states with the lowest vaccination rate seem to be falling—well, the majority of them—below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Lower incomes, lower education levels are unvaccinated at higher rates. Those things are true in the South, and the circumstances fit, but in the South there is also the historical lack of access to health care, because a lot of the South is rural and poor. There’s a lack of access to doctors, a lack of health insurance, a lack of a concept of preventive health care. All of those numbers lag in the South. Look at how the population of older folks in the South who’ve gotten the vaccine is much higher. Part of that is because elderly people are dying at higher rates; it’s also because they have Medicare and have regular doctors.

The other thing is a strong belief in prayer—God will protect, you’re going to die from something, the rewards of heaven are not to be feared. Then of course there’s just plain racism and othering of other races and ethnicities, because for a while when COVID started, there was such a significantly higher death rate and hospitalization rate for nonwhite people, and in blue states. The initial notion was, This just isn’t as hard on white people and doesn’t exist in red states.

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Posted by: Susan I/S ( )
Date: October 05, 2021 10:20PM

Good article. It's not just the vaccine numbers though. It is also the complete lack of any mitigation measures. The butt cheek to butt cheek summer couldn't have helped. Now they are harassing/threatening medical workers and teachers. It just doesn't make any sense and yet they persist going down the same deadly road.

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Posted by: summer ( )
Date: October 05, 2021 11:35PM

My dentist told me today that she had treated a couple that had come up from Florida. Both were unvaccinated and had firmly insisted that Covid is not so bad down there. Some people don't see what is right in front of their noses.

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