In this episode of Who Belongs? we hear from a three-guest panel of Berkeley faculty who provide various perspectives on the different forms of racism we’ve been witnessing since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hear about the experiences of Asian Americans who are facing a surge in hate crimes, the disparate impacts on black and brown communities in terms of the rates of death, and about how politicians are using the crisis to engage in racial fear mongering. But the panelists don’t focus so much on the incidents themselves as on the structures that have created the conditions for these forms of racism to emerge with such force.
The panelists examine these issues by placing them in historical, social, and political contexts so we can think about how to respond to the crisis in ways that doesn’t reinforce the structures that set the stage for what we’re currently experiencing. The guests are Catherine Ceniza Choy, who is a Professor of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, and Comparative Ethnic Studies; Ian Haney López, who is a Professor of Law and Director of the Racial Politics Project, and the author of Dog-Whistle Politics, and the more recent book Merge Left; and Osagie K. Obasogie, who is a Professor of Bioethics and chair of our Institute’s Health Disparities research cluster.
- Op-Ed: John Cho: Coronavirus reminds Asian Americans like me that our belonging is conditional (LA Times)
- Straight talk: A conversation about racism, health inequities and COVID-19 (Video)
- Joe Biden's anti-China ad (Video)
Osagie Obasogie: The kind of strong movements we've seen towards reopening America seem to be, at some level, in conversation with this idea that those who are impacted by COVID-19 are people who are not valuable. Populations who are a burdened to the public and therefore their health problems and health disparities should not take away economic opportunity from those who are productive. This conversation is straight from late 1800s, early 1900s, eugenic ideology.
Marc Abizeid: Hello and welcome to this episode of Who Belongs?, a podcast from the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. My name is Marc Abizeid, the host of the show. In this episode we have a three guest panel of Berkeley faculty who provide various perspectives on the different forms of racism we've been witnessing since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. We'll hear about the experiences of Asian Americans who are facing a surge in hate crimes. We'll hear about the disparate impacts on black and brown communities, in terms of the rates of death. We'll hear about how politicians are using the crisis to engage in racial fear-mongering.
Marc Abizeid: But the panelists don't focus so much on the incidents themselves as on the structures that have created the conditions for these forms of racism to emerge with such force. The panelists examine these issues by placing them in historical, social and political contexts, so we can think about how to respond to the crisis in ways that don't reinforce the structures that set the stage for what we're currently experiencing.
Marc Abizeid: The first guest is Catherine Choy, who is a Professor of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies and Comparative Ethnic Studies. The second guest is Ian Haney Lopez, who is a Professor of Law and the Director of the Racial Politics Project. He's also the author of Dog Whistle Politics and the more recent book, Merge Left. The third guest is Osagie Obasogie, who is a Professor of Bioethics and chair of our institute's, Health Disparities research cluster. Let's cut straight to the interview which we'll start right now.
Marc Abizeid: Professor Choy, you've noted that this is not new or unique and blaming Chinese people or Asians more generally for diseases. So can you start us off by giving us a little bit of background on that history?
Catherine Choy: Tragically, there's a much longer history of associating Asian and by extension, Asian American bodies with disease as disease carriers. This goes back over 150 years, that in the 1860s through the 1880s when there were smallpox outbreaks here in the United States, they were blamed on the Chinese. In the US, we also see the association in the early 1900s of the bubonic plague with Japanese arrivals to the United States. When the United States colonized the Philippines in the early 1900s, some of their colonial health officials referred to Filipino bodies as incubators of leprosy. And this something that has continued in more recent times. In the early 21st century, we also saw how SARS led to anti Asian hostility and harassment because of the association with SARS and Asian, Chinese bodies as disease carriers. And we're seeing it in the present day.
Marc Abizeid: So the next question I wanted to ask is something that's already been talked about a bit in the news from various perspectives: is the terming of the coronavirus by Trump and the Republicans as the China virus or the Wuhan virus? Professor Ian Haney Lopez, I know you're a specialist in political messaging. Maybe you can start by sharing, from your perspective, what you hear when you hear that term, China virus.
Ian Haney López: Leaders are making decisions about how they will direct blame. In something like a pandemic, it's a health crisis and trying to understand its origins, its etiology from a public health perspective, that's important. We'll get there but in the short run, we need to deal with it as a public health crisis. Right now we're living in a context in which the leadership of the United States has failed spectacularly to protect us. In that context, what we're seeing is that the American political leadership, especially from the Republican Party and from the administration of Donald Trump, is seeking to politicize this pandemic. Seeking to make it part of partisan politics.
Ian Haney López: They've tried various strategies but key among them and the one they seem to be settling on right now as the strategy, the messaging strategy they will pursue through November is to blame the Chinese. Calling it a Chinese virus but also saying, well, this isn't racism. This isn't even about nationality, this is about the Chinese Communist party. We can't be racist. This is just geographically true. It's just a fact that the communist party bobbled their response when the pandemic began there.
Ian Haney López: So they're saying all of that and in addition, what they're trying to do is they're trying to connect the Democratic Party and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, to this blame the Chinese strategy by identifying Biden as been friendly toward and defensive of the Chinese. Indeed, America First, one of the largest pro Trump super packs has recently launched ads with a #BeijingBiden. This is very much a political strategy.
Ian Haney López: At root, it's a political strategy that connects up to a 50 year effort to racialize American politics, to stoke racial conflict and division. But to do so in coded terms that allow plausible deniability. In this case this is, put bluntly, this is dog whistle politics. This is an effort to trigger racist thinking, racist fears and stereotypes of the sword that Professor Choy has identified as being deeply rooted in American culture. But to vivify them, to stoke them, to energize them in the present, purposefully, as a political strategy.
Marc Abizeid: Professor Choy, can I get your thoughts from your perspective about this issue of racializing viruses. Because it's not just an abstract issue. It's something that has real life impact and consequences on everyday people. So can you talk a little bit about that, about what those terms mean for how Asian Americans are viewed and treated?
Catherine Choy: The labeling of COVID-19 as a Chinese virus has had extremely harmful consequences, for not solely Chinese and Asians but also for Chinese and other Asian Americans. And that has to do with a history of racial lumping where the general public cannot tell apart a Chinese first-generation migrant from a fourth generation Chinese American. One of the disturbing things that I have read about recently, in the news is that a new reporting center called Stop AAPI Hate has recorded that between mid March and mid April of this year, in just a little over a month, there have been almost 1500 coronavirus related racist incidents targeting Asian Americans. This has real consequences as you point out on the lived experiences of Asian Americans but also, Asians throughout the world.
Marc Abizeid: Osagie, do you want to add anything on this topic, not just from a public health perspective but also someone who studies history?
Osagie Obasogie: I'll just add to this, to the important comments made by my colleagues, that we often hear this argument that the naming convention of leading a disease to its origins is something that's been around for a long time and is without any operational implication. I think, we just need to complicate that in really laid bare but that's not always true. So, for example, the 'Spanish flu' of 1918. Public health historians have come to the conclusion that actually started in Kansas and we don't call that the Kansas flu. I've never heard that, right? This is to say that when we associate locations in peoples with diseases, there is a deep political motivation behind it as both Ian and Catherine have talked about. And we have to really push back when we hear people trying to normalize the association between Chinese Americans, Chinese people and COVID-19.
Marc Abizeid: I want to turn to the disparate impacts of COVID-19. From a public health perspective and I'll just mention, Osagie, that you participated in a really extraordinary panel last week with a number of other public health experts who are looking at the impacts of the virus on black and brown community specifically. There were a couple of narratives that the panelists were trying to dispel and I'll just list them really briefly. There was this argument, this narrative put forth that there's a biological basis for why black people are dying at rates much higher than white people. There's another one that people of color have higher rates of preexisting conditions. Then finally, that communities of color are not following shelter and place order. So really it's their own fault, if they get sick. But as you pointed out, public health as a field also has a role in propping up some of these narratives. So can you expand a little bit on that from your perspective?
Osagie Obasogie: Sure. I think, public health as a field has tried to distinguish its work from what happens in medicine by paying attention to the social determinants of health. Clinical medicine is often focused on the biological or physiological processes that might lead individuals to become sick. Public health participants tried to provide a more holistic understanding of how illness and disease spreads by looking at social environmental factors and looking at health as a population issue or the product of population in group circumstance.
Osagie Obasogie: While public health has tried to do that, there have been some enforcement moments where it has evolved back to an individual's framework that is attributing public health phenomenon to individual behaviors. So an example of this was the U.S. surgeon general, who spoke a couple of weeks ago, who tried to speak to communities of color by suggesting that we can combat what is a public health problem by individual absence such as, people of color to stop smoking and not drinking and not use drugs.
Osagie Obasogie: That's unfortunate and deeply problematic framing to suggest that COVID-19 can be dispelled or fought off by a series of individual behaviors. And it doesn't take seriously the notion that the racial disparities that we see with COVID-19, are tied intimately to a long history of racism in medicine and in public health in terms of having access to various resources that other communities have access to. It's also deeply connected by deeper histories and legacies of slavery, eugenics, scientific racism, et cetera, in addition to the contemporary issues that communities of color continue to fight. So this is to say that in order to have a more accurate and shall we say, productive and successful battle against not only COVID-19 but also the racial disparities we see in terms of, who's impacted? We really had to take these history seriously and understand that it's going to require a structural approach in terms of trying to make sure that these communities and their healths are taken seriously.
Ian Haney López: I'd love to comment on that also. I think what's happening here is we're seeing a couple of different political narratives developing around the disproportionate deaths in communities of color. And they're contradictory, although, ultimately they say they serve the same end which is to create a partisan divide over this public health emergency. One narrative, it says that it's overwhelmingly people of color, who are dying, they're concentrated in the cities and all of these shelter in place requirements that have the effect of shutting down the economy are being instigated by government in order to protect people of color. And that plays into a 50 year old reactionary narrative that says, distrust liberals, distrust government, distrust major social institutions like unions, they care more about protecting people of color than they do about hardworking Americans and hardworking American serves as a proxy for whites. So that story has reemerged.
Ian Haney López: Then, in addition, there's also this seemingly contradictory story that says, whites are the ones who are sheltering in place and if black and brown communities are experiencing disproportionate deaths, it's because they're not taking appropriate steps. Which is another way of saying, disproportionate effects on communities of color that do reflect the way, Professor Obasogie said that, do reflect a long legacy.
Ian Haney López: An entrenched legacy of discrimination are instead are a reflection of dysfunctional behaviors within communities of color themselves. But when you combine those two narratives, what you see as a politically polarizing story that says, we are a country that's fundamentally divided by race. People of color are threatening. People of color are undeserving. Government takes their side. We need to trust instead the political leaders who resist government, who stand outside of government, who represent the marketplace. That is to say the business elites, people like Donald Trump.
Marc Abizeid: Osagie, I want to go back to something that you also talked a little bit about during the panel last week and it's just relevant to note that you're also a bioethicist and a researcher of history. So you have a unique perspective on this issue of eugenics. And you noted a correlation between the realization that there were disparate impacts of the coronavirus on people of color and calls to reopen the economy. You talked about this as a modern form of eugenics. So can you talk a little bit about that? Expand on that?
Osagie Obasogie: This is, for me, an interesting realization that there was a correlation and I want to emphasize correlation and not causation. Well, correlation between two narratives. One, which was around the emerging data that came out a couple of weeks ago in terms of who was being impacted by a COVID-19. That data showed that it was just a portion of elderly individuals and people of color. That conversation emerged again around the same time as we started to see these more active efforts to articulate a movement around reopening America.
Osagie Obasogie: That correlation to me is interesting because it suggests that these narratives are in conversation with one another. That is that the kind of strong movements we've seen towards reopening America seem to be at some level in conversation with this idea that those who are impacted by COVID-19 are people who are not valuable. Populations that do not contribute to the economy. Populations who are burdened to the public and therefore their health problems and health disparities should not take away economic opportunity from those who are productive.
Osagie Obasogie: This conversation is straight from late 1800s, early 1900s, eugenic ideology. That is that those individuals... I'll take a step backwards and just frame it for us. Eugenics was this ideology that emerged in late 1800s, early 19 hundreds that suggested that we should use medicine, science and technology to, in a sense, make sure that we weed out and that is prevent the birth of those populations that are a burden to society and promote the birth and health of those people who are seen as good as superior.
Osagie Obasogie: A simple part of that conversation was deeply class-based and race-based. That is that certain populations are inherently a burden and therefore they should not be around with us. So I think it's important to track the legacy of this eugenic ideology. Many people suggest that eugenics as an idea disappeared after World War II, after we realized the horrific implications of eugenics. But the legacy of eugenics is what is to this very day and influences many aspects of scientific research and medicine and moreover public policy.
Osagie Obasogie: So we really have to take seriously how that ideology shapes, claims to reopen America when it becomes increasingly apparent that the folks who are burdened by this pandemic are folks who were considered not valuable in many people's eyes. We really have to also just make sure that these conversations about reopening America, don't happen on terms that exclude the voices of those who are most vulnerable. Because again, as a society, our commitments and our responsibility is to everyone. Not simply those who are eager to get the economy back up and going.
Marc Abizeid: Professor Choy, I wanted to ask you about this article that I came across over the weekend and I sent it to you because I thought it was really relevant to the larger theme of our podcast which is called Who Belongs. The article was by the actor John Cho. It was an op-ed and John Chow -- he played in Harold & Kumar and a few other movies -- he talks about how it's in crises like these where Asian Americans are reminded that they don't really belong. It dissolves this narrative that Asian Americans are a model minority. That they've proven that they can be accepted and integrated into the larger society. But then when something like this happens, it's a reminder that their belonging is really temporary and conditional. I just wanted to get your thoughts on that perspective.
Catherine Choy: John Cho is a terrific actor and also a UC Berkeley alumnus who took some of Ethnic Studies courses. So, go bears. I read his op-ed and I appreciated it very much. One of the things that we have observed, from this pandemic is that for Asian Americans, you're the model minority until you're not. It does show that there is an unstable belonging for Asian Americans in the United States and that stereotypes of, Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners who are not American or the opposite of American, are sadly still with us.
Catherine Choy: The model minority is a controlling image that has been with us for some time. It became popular in the late 1960s. At that point was referring to Asian immigrant trip and Norris saying that they could pull themselves up by their bootstraps and that they were doing very well here in the United States and later it would morph into Asian Americans with kids who were super smart in math and other STEM fields.
Catherine Choy: I see the rise of the image of the model minority alongside the persistent stereotype of Asians and Asian Americans as disease carriers. Both of them actually work together. They are stereotypes of Asian Americans as either subhuman or superhuman but never quite human and certainly not American. So John Cho brought up something that is happening today but that we've also seen in the past that is dangerous and that we need to speak out against.
Catherine Choy: I also want to point out that, Asian American Studies scholars, have called the model minority myth for two main reasons. One is that, Asian Americans are an incredibly diverse heterogeneous population. It is a community that also deals with low educational attainment and poverty and other struggles contrary to the glowy image of the model minority as a success story.
Catherine Choy: It's also a myth because one of the most dangerous things about the Asian Americans as a model minority is that it has historically pitted Asian Americans against other racialized groups and has said that Asian Americans are a model minority in contrast to African Americans and Latinx. This works, not to help Asian Americans, this is actually quite destructive. It's divisive and it sets all of us back. So that op-ed brings up a number of complex issues that we all need to be grappling with in this very moment.
Marc Abizeid: I just want to turn back to that question of political messaging. We've already talked about what Trump and the Republicans are doing but now we have this new political ad from Joe Biden-
Joe Biden ad narration: He failed to act. So now Trump and his allies are launching negative attacks against Joe Biden to hide the truth. Here are the facts. Joe Biden warned the nation, In January, that Trump had left us unprepared for a pandemic. Then Biden told Trump he should insist on having American health experts on the ground in China.
Joe Biden: I would be on the phone with China and making it clear. We are going to need to be in your country. You have to be open. You have to be clear. We have to know what's going on.
Joe Biden ad narration: But Trump rolled over for the Chinese. He took their word for it.
Newscaster: President tweeted, China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency.
Donald Trump: John, I spoke with President Xi and they're working very hard and I think it's going to all work out fine.
Joe Biden ad narration: Trump praised the Chinese 15 times, in January and February, as the coronavirus spread across the world.
Donald Trump: It's a tough situation. I think they're doing a very good job.
Journalist: Are you concerned about its potential impact in the global economy?
Donald Trump: I think that China will do a very good job.
Joe Biden ad narration: Trump never got a CDC team on the ground in China and the travel ban he brags about, Trump led him 40,000 travelers from China into America after he signed it. Not exactly airtight. Look around, 22 million Americans are out of work and we have more efficiently reported cases and deaths than any other country. Donald Trump left this country unprepared and unprotected for the worst public health and economic crisis in our lifetime. And now we are paying the price.
Marc Abizeid: So I wanted to get your thoughts and reactions on that. Maybe we can start with Professor Haney Lopez.
Ian Haney López: To understand what the Republicans are doing, the first point is, they have settled on a strategy of linking the pandemic to China and then linking China to the Democrats. When I say the Republicans, I don't mean just Donald Trump. This is actually a strategy that is now being promoted, for instance, to every Republican candidate for the Senate either for election or for reelection. This is really going to be a coordinated message that we're going to hear across many different campaigns throughout the remainder of this campaign season. But how is it that they are linking China to the pandemic? I've already said they're doing so through dog whistles, that is, by referring to it as the Chinese virus or by consistently talking about it as the Wuhan virus. But that's only the first step in a more complex choreography.
Ian Haney López: In addition to that, the right is counting on progressives to criticize them for racism or xenophobia. It's part of their strategy to provoke those charges because they then immediately turn around and say, they're not racist at all, that's the denial part, they're not racist at all. They just said something that was geographically accurate or is accurate in pinning the blame on a national government that failed to respond adequately and sufficiently rapidly. Not racism at all.
Ian Haney López: Then in the next move, they counter punch and say, see, there you go again. Political correctness, Democrats and liberal government doing more to protect minorities than to actually save America from this pandemic. In other words, Republicans have a strategy in which they push race into the conversation, deny that, that's what they're doing and then wait to be criticized for racism or xenophobia and then counter punch and say, no, the real enemy in America is liberals and their political correctness.
Ian Haney López: So the question then becomes, how can Democrats respond? One thing that Democrats can do is simply to ignore this phenomenon. Obviously, that's insufficient. Another thing progressors can do is to go ahead and call the right racist and xenophobic and bigots. That simply plays directly into their hands. A third solution that occurs to many Democrats is unpalatable, unlikely to be effective but seemingly the only thing they can do and it's precisely what Joe Biden is doing right now. That is, imitate the Republican strategy.
Ian Haney López: Accept the basic framework of the Republican narrative that China is the problem but contest, who's the real friend of China? Who was weak on China? So what Biden's ad does is it confirms the idea that China's really to blame and then it turns around and says, hey, and don't worry, Democrats will be tougher on China than the Republicans will.
Ian Haney López: This is going to be a disaster for the Democrats. It's going to be a disaster for China. It's going to be a disaster for the Chinese. It's going to be a disaster in terms of increasing racial division but it's also going to be an electoral disaster in terms of Democrats. Because in effect, the Democrats are saying, we accept the idea that the 2020 election will be a contest between two parties as to which is better at racial fear-mongering. If that's the form of the contest, there's no chance that Joe Biden and the Democrats are going to be better racist fear-mongering than Donald Trump, the Republican establishment and the right-wing echo chamber established through Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart and so on.
Marc Abizeid: Professor Choy, did you want to add anything as far as the, what your fears were about what the consequences of that type of strategy would be for Asian Americans who are already facing a very hostile environment?
Catherine Choy: That ad was problematic. It continues to reify binaries between, what is American? And what is Chinese? It suggests that what is Chinese is diseased, is secretive, is untrustworthy. And these kinds of racial, national binary's will potentially contribute. They will potentially exacerbate anti-Asian violence in the United States. I'm very critical of this ad and I would like to see Joe Biden and the Democratic Party take on new different frameworks for disgusting the pandemic and US-China relations.
Marc Abizeid: So in this last part, I want to look towards the future and see what could come out of this pandemic? There's a couple of different ways of looking at this. I know that there is a danger. We've already seen it actually. There's a couple of examples in how the pandemic is being used as an excuse by Trump and the administration to push policies that actually just hardened racist structures. For example, ending sale policies at the border. Another example was how Trump tried to halt immigration though I just read this morning that a judge blocked that order. That suggestion. So then what are the alternatives? What are the positive things that we can see? In terms of messaging, what is the alternative message that the opposition could put forward that uses this pandemic as an opportunity to bring people together as opposed to furthering othering?
Catherine Choy: One of the risks that we take in divisive language is increasing racial hostility, harassment, violence. As an alternative, what I would love to see our politicians here in the United States and American institutions and organizations do, is to acknowledge that Asian Americans are Americans. That they are human beings and that we all have a stake in the rise of anti-Asian violence here in the United States. I'd also like to see an alternative framework that elevates a sense of communal care, public health that is for the public good and that truly incorporates the most vulnerable groups in our American society as well as some of the more privileged ones.
Marc Abizeid: Ian, did you want to add?
Ian Haney López: I think in order to understand the way forward, we have to be clear about precisely the danger we risk. It's something that Naomi Klein has written about under her book, The Shock Doctrine. She calls it disaster capitalism. The idea there is that in the midst of crises, the wealthy few, capitalist elites seize the moment to enact reforms that further concentrate wealth and power in their hands at a moment when people are fearful and distracted, focus merely on getting through the crisis and not paying attention to these deeper structural, political and economic changes. Well, I think that's right. We are seeing disaster capitalism play out in many different ways right now. The relief that's being passed. Trillions of dollars of money, major tax cuts, a lot of it rigged to go to the very rich.
Ian Haney López: But it's not just disaster capitalism hidden behind a crisis, it's disaster capitalism hidden behind racist fear-mongering. It's precisely the effort by the right to direct people's attention to China, to the Chinese, to immigrants generally. That prevents people from focusing on the way in which, in fact, the rich are seeking to take advantage of even a global health crisis to irrigate more and more power and wealth for themselves.
Ian Haney López: Once we see that clearly, that opens up a different possibility. Not simply in terms of political messaging but in terms of our ability as a society to recognize that our fates are truly linked. When we accept racist stereotypes about Asians and Asian Americans, we end up voting in a way that gives power to billionaires who are running a con on all of us. When we do that, we ended up with a society rigged for the few in which the rest of us live in economic misery and in racial conflict. It's so important to say, yes, this is racism. Yes, this is bigotry. But not because of personal prejudice on the part of Donald Trump or anybody else, it's rather racism as a political strategy by the billionaire class to get us fighting each other so we won't notice the way in which they're rigging the rules and wrecking democracy for all of us.
Ian Haney López: That's not just some message that has been made up in the holes of Berkeley. That's a message that we ran a two year project to study and we showed in that project, The Race Class Narrative Project that, that is the single most potent political message today. Stronger than any other progressive message available and stronger even than the rights message of racial fear. The pandemic is a moment when we need government on the side of all of us and the only way to do that is to create a multiracial movement in which every racial group understands our fates are linked. The only way to do that is to show people that racism against brown, black, yellow and red people is being run as a billionaire's con and that when we reject that we can make sure that government actually works for all of us.
Osagie Obasogie: Yeah. One thing I'll add is, I think, a related concern to discussion that we're having is having a bar of historical understanding of how notions of improving or protecting public health has been a cover for initiating disastrous policies in the past and the need to be attuned to how that might occur here. In particularly, in the wake of COVID-19, we've seen silver examples where local politicians are thinking about how to reopen society in a way that can protect us from the further spread of the virus. We've seen scenarios that are, in many ways, downright dystopian.
Osagie Obasogie: The idea of, before you are allowed to walk into a restaurant or any public space, you have your temperature taken. You have to wear certain protective measures. We're seeing a series of conversations where, in the name of public health, we are going to require people to have a certain prerequisites to ensure that they are protecting themselves and other people. I think one thing we want to pay attention to is how these types of measures whether it's taking people's temperatures. Whether it is stopping people who aren't wearing protective mask. Whether it is other efforts to, in a sense, surveil people's biological capacities and predispositions.
Osagie Obasogie: How this on the one hand may, in some circumstances, be a reasonable way to stop the spread of disease but can also be used as a way to initiate forms of surveillance that can be downright harmful and disastrous. The communities that are most likely to be harmed by that are going to be vulnerable populations. So communities of color and other vulnerable groups. I think it's important for us to realize how there is a deep history of how public health measures have been used to do this. In making sure that as we think about what measures we actually need to protect us going forward, that there is a careful balance between what's actually a productive and protecting society and what may, in a sense, go overboard and have external externalities that could be quite harmful to those folks who are in most need.
Marc Abizeid: I've heard those concerns being raised but they're mostly have been around the role that tech's playing. Google and Apple and tracking your phones and your movements and who you're encountering. But I didn't realize that it also went to, I mean, I didn't realize that that wearing masks or getting your temperature checked was also a controversial policy. Could you elaborate just briefly on that? Because I think that's something that most people would just think it's common sense.
Osagie Obasogie: At some level it may be practical given the situation. But I think we have to have a serious conversation anytime we put prerequisites on who can participate in civil society. Whether it is someone who has the right temperature or wearing the right protective gear. Again, might be a reasonable given what's happening at a particular moment. But at the same time, these are requirements for basic participation in terms of being able to work, being able to enjoy society with your family. We just have to have a really careful conversation to make sure that the measures that we enact are doing what they're supposed to do and are not leveraged to an extent to make other people's lives harder than it may already be.
Ian Haney López: I Just want to amplify what a Professor Obasogie is saying. One of the most striking images that I've seen recently is the Philadelphia Police dragging a black man off of a bus using six or seven white police officers. Using a tremendous amount of force, dragging him off a bus ostensibly because he's not wearing a mask. Contrast that with an image in which one police officer or one community service officer approaches someone not wearing a mask and hands them a mask. If the issue is a mask, yes, there's ways in which we can do that, that facilitates participation and inclusion.
Ian Haney López: The danger is that we'll use a sense of crisis and panic to instead hardened prejudices, hardened lines of exclusion and shift the country towards militarism and authoritarianism. It's not the mask per se. It's how we go about expressing our commitment to the health of each and every one of us. Do we all matter in the way that we designed public health responses so that we do the best we can in protecting each other's health? Or do we design public health policies in the way that tracks existing hierarchies as to who matters in society and who doesn't?
Osagie Obasogie: I think just to add to that excellent point is that notions of public health are tied tightly to the state's police power. That is, states have wide authority to enforce and protect the public health in ways that can be quite shocking to the conscience. As professor Haney has noted, we already have examples where we see this occur and as this moves forward we may see even more razes examples of force being used in the name of public health. This is why I think it's critically important for us to have these conversations early in terms of what's needed, how are we going to enforce it and to make sure that populations that are already vulnerable aren't further marginalized in the name of protecting the public's health.
Marc Abizeid: That wraps up this episode of who belongs. Thank you to our guests, Catherine Choy, who is a Professor of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies and Comparative Ethnic Studies. Ian Haney Lopez, who is a Professor of Law and Director of the Racial Politics Project and Osagie Obasogie, who is a Professor of Bioethics and chair of our institute's, Health Disparities research cluster. For a transcript of this interview and links to relevant resources, including those cited in this interview is at our website at belonging.berkeley.edu/whobelongs. Thank you for listening.