What Social Justice Movements Can Learn from the Medical Response to the Coronavirus

What Social Justice Movements Can Learn from the Medical Response to the Coronavirus

By: 
Mohammed Naeem
July 13, 2020

Across the country, communities are responding to the coronavirus pandemic by working to protect our poor, elderly, and compromised. Critical to the response are the efforts of the medical and scientific community. Thousands of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals from diverse backgrounds–including reenlisting retirees–are serving on the frontline to treat those who fall ill.

Those working in social justice movements can learn a lot from the swift and meaningful collaboration of the medical community.

Their effort relies on a network of global practitioners, mobilizing insights that ensure breakthroughs at unprecedented speed. Their response holds lessons for many of us, especially those trying to protect our most marginalized.

Our movements must become more collaborative. This is necessary whether we want to achieve universal civil rights or build fair economies. Just as medical teams are working together to combat the virus, we must emulate their strategies. We need problem identification, idea sharing, open-sourcing research, and delegation of resources.

Rather than duplicating efforts, the scientific community builds on one another’s discoveries. They often join in mutual victory. Their competitive edge is solely focused on defeating the virus. In this crisis, no one tries to undermine each other.

This is a vast departure from how movements operate, often working in silos. Our competition doesn’t spur innovative ideas. Instead, we wrestle over limited resources and public attention.

Over time, this process prevents the acceleration of progress and full equality. Moving forward, we ought to build on each other’s work so that we’re able to drive the most pressing solutions.

Building a cooperative approach will require leaders to partner across issues and sectors. This would create space for intellectual diversity. It would challenge our biases and assumptions. We could redefine the problem in unique ways and organize new allies. And by establishing collective goals, we would avoid sacrificing one vulnerable community for another.

Imagine, if on the other side of the curve, we emphasize connection, advocate for common values, celebrate our resilience, and honor all our contributions. Our commitment to such healing would champion demographic and ideological diversity, rather than pitting us against each other. In effect, this would leave no community behind.

If we embark on such a journey, the bitterness of our politics could be supplanted by social solidarity and cohesion, the likes of which our country has never seen.