The risk this pandemic presents to wealthy, white women and their families is minimal compared with poor families and families of color.
Columns share an author’s personal perspective and are often based on facts in the newspaper’s reporting.
It is never a good idea to spike the ball in the end zone and declare victory in the first quarter. Kellyanne Conway, the Special Advisor to President Trump who is now stepping down from that role, should have known better when she declared the administration’s victory over COVID-19 on March 6, 2020.
REPORTER: Why now? Why didn’t they (increase testing) while (the virus) was contained?
CONWAY: It is being contained. Do you not think it’s being contained? You said it’s not being contained so were you a doctor or a lawyer when you say it’s not being contained? You just said something that’s not true.
REPORTER: The virus is spreading throughout the country. …
CONWAY (later in the conversation): The 14 deaths so far that are completely tragic and very sad in this country show that this has been contained because the president took action.
Wrong. Conway has been the Queen of Spin since she joined the Trump campaign in 2016. Since then, she has swatted away criticism of the president ranging from his racism and putting children in cages at our southern border to tax cuts that overwhelming benefited the wealthiest of Americans. But no spin or obfuscation has been more damaging and consequential than her statements diminishing the risk COVID-19 posed to the American people and the economy.
Six weeks after stating that her boss had successfully contained the virus, Conway had new advice for Americans:
“We have to learn how to live with the virus while we’re doing testing, while we’re developing therapeutics, while we’re developing a vaccine.”
Learning to “live with the virus” goes beyond social distancing and wearing masks. For millions of families, it means finding a way to pay rent or a mortgage, put food on the table, and work from home or in person while caring for and helping to educate children who cannot return to in-person classroom. Conway’s announcement reveals that she has, indeed, learned how to live with the virus: she will stop working and stay home with her children. How very nice it must be to have the luxury of that option. But that is not an option for most women and for far fewer women of color who make up a disproportionate percentage of “essential workers.”
Conway’s willingness to minimize risk to health, home, children’s educations and job security that COVID-19 presented is not new behavior for wealthy, white women. There’s an obvious reason why: the risk this pandemic presents to wealthy, white women and their families is minimal as compared to poor families and families of color. Conway has an extremely comfortable home in a safe neighborhood. She and her family are not at risk of losing their home, going hungry, or becoming uninsured because Conway is pausing her career. The water that comes out of her home’s faucets is safe and her internet connection is stable and highspeed. If she is unable to assist with her children’s studies, she has ample resources to hire the best tutors for as many hours as are needed.
Is Conway’s family avoiding all hardship during the pandemic? Of course not. None of us will be entirely spared the impact of a deadly virus that has been grossly mismanaged and allowed to continue its spread beyond that which we have seen in nearly any other developed nation. The difference is that Conway is complicit in creating that failure. She is complicit in the lies that have made too many Americans believe that the risk is not grave and serious mitigation measures are unnecessary. And now, more than six months and 176,000 deaths after Conway did her endzone dance and declared the victory over the virus, more than 1,000 families are experiencing what Conway described as “completely tragic and very sad” deaths when only 14 people had fallen to the COVID-19.
So, for now, Kellyanne Conway is taking a step back from work because, as she described in her statement, “millions of parents nationwide know, kids ‘doing school from home’ requires a level of attention and vigilance that is as unusual as these times.” Never let it be said that Conway missed an opportunity to make a situation about herself because as “millions of parents nationwide know” their children need extra time and attention from their parents right now, it’s a small segment of parents who have the ability to commit that time as Conway has chosen to do. Perhaps all those American families terrified of losing their homes, their jobs, their loved ones, and their own lives can take comfort knowing that Conway will be…