Color of COVID and Gender of COVID: Essential Workers, Not Disposable People

46 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2020 Last revised: 17 Sep 2021

Date Written: October 16, 2020


We live in a moment of interconnected pandemics. The COVID-19 crisis provides a window into the underlying pandemics of inequality, economic insecurity, and injustice. The viruses of sexism, racism, and economic instability are the pre-existing conditions of an unjust legal system — baked into our nation at the Founding in the shadow of chattel slavery, female disenfranchisement, property requirements for voting rights, and dispossession of Native Americans. COVID-19 has not recreated these conditions, but instead has amplified the persisting inequalities upon which the nation was built.

At the same time, the current viral moment reveals that we all share common vulnerabilities, making a vulnerability analysis particularly timely in gaining support for solutions. As commentators have observed, “COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate[, but] America does.” Even while unmasking deeply embedded structural inequalities, this moment of interlinked pandemics of disease, economic insecurity, and violence affects us all and has torn at the very fabric of the social contract we owe to each other and, in fact, depend on.

I propose a new concept, “viral convergence,” to both analyze this moment of interlinked crises and to utilize this moment, in which our share vulnerabilities are so clear, to theorize a way forward. The road ahead calls for legal paradigms that recognize both the need for universal and more targeted solutions. As Arundhati Roy suggests, we must both acknowledge the tragedy while also utilizing this crisis for transformational change by viewing the COVID-19 pandemic as a “portal” to a more just and equal world.

Suggested Citation

Powell, Catherine, Color of COVID and Gender of COVID: Essential Workers, Not Disposable People (October 16, 2020). 33 YALE J.L. & FEMINISM 1 (2021), Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3713395, Available at SSRN:

Catherine Powell (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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