Methods: We conducted an online survey of 308 residents of NYC, comparing attitudes across three racial groups: Asian (n=103); Black (n=102) and White (n=102). Residency in NYC was selected as an eligibility criterion as NYC was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic during the first wave of infections in the U.S., roughly from March to June, 2020. Dependent variables were attitudes towards: (1) COVID-19 pandemic; (2) mask-wearing and (3) the Summer 2020 racial justice protests. Covariates were age, gender, sexual orientation, and COVID-19 experience. Descriptive statistics were performed. To explore relationships between participation in racial justice protests and covariates, we conducted a series of regression analyses and Chi-square tests of independence. Analyses were performed using SPSS V26.
Results: Respondents who identified Black, tested positive for COVID-19 and experienced COVID-19 symptoms were significantly more likely to express negative feelings towards mask mandates. Female respondents were 2.5 times more likely to feel positive about mask-wearing than their male counterparts. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 were 20% less likely to feel positive about masks. Respondents who identified Black were at an increased likelihood to have positive feelings about the racial justice movements. The extent of participation in protests increased with age. The relationship between race and attitudes regarding mask mandates was moderated by attitudes regarding the racial justice movement. Respondents who expressed positive feelings towards the racial justice movement were significantly more likely to express negative feelings towards mask-wearing mandates.
Implications: The key findings from our study lie in better understanding the factors impacting the likelihood of participating in a racial justice protest during the COVID-19 pandemic. These results can potentially contribute to the development of more specialized COVID-19 prevention strategies for different racial/ethnic communities. These findings may also aid in the development of a more robust application of anti-racist principles in building racial and economic justice movements. Our study findings indicate a deep need for social workers to reflect on our own individual and collective positionalities within the discourse of White privilege, White normativity, White saviorism, White silence, and anti-Black bias.