It’s not often that I’d feel compelled to share a full reader email. I get a lot of emails… and let’s just say the quality can vary.
But here’s an extremely high-quality email that’s worth reproducing. It comes in response to an article of mine from last week about the media’s unshakable obsession with partisanship in relation to the phenomenon of “vaccine hesitancy.” Glance at most popular coverage of the issue and you’d come away thinking that Republican voting inclination is the only relevant variable in why millions of Americans are “hesitant” to take COVID vaccines.
I don’t know about you, but my hunch when examining vaccine uptake data from around the country has long been that socioeconomic status — or, to put it more simply, class — is a highly salient factor, perhaps even dwarfing partisanship. And while race also does get mentioned a fair amount — among racial groups, blacks have the lowest predilection to get vaccinated — whatever racial disparities exist could easily be more a function of socioeconomic status than any intrinsically “racial” factor.
Issues of class tend to be less exciting than race and partisanship for the media to bicker amongst themselves about though, so it’s unsurprising that this would be mostly glossed over. And it should go without saying that the vast majority of people who work in the media/nonprofit/activism complex come from a very distinct socioeconomic stratum, hence why they often miss trends that derive from lower-class sensibilities with which they are unfamiliar, and seldom ever encounter.
The letter-writer below asked to remain anonymous for reasons that will become obvious once you begin reading. But most relevantly, he/she has direct firsthand experience with disparate vaccine uptake rates among differing socioeconomic groups, and proffers a theory explaining these disparities. The context here is a corporate one, but the dynamics referenced strike me as universalizable enough to potentially account for a large degree of overall “vaccine hesitancy.” And yet what he/she’s getting at is essentially never considered in US media squabbles.
I wouldn’t necessarily endorse every aspect of the conclusions proposed, but I endorse the worthiness of airing the opinion. Emails like this make the more “unkind” feedback I receive worth it!
Wanted to write to you to share an observation. It could well make for a worthwhile story, should you choose to pursue it, or maybe it’s something you could file in your mental knowledge rolodex for future use. Or maybe it’s useless and I’m wasting my time — if nothing else, I get to put my thoughts on paper. Please do not ever share my personal information, who I work for, locations where I work, or any other information that could possibly be used to identify me.
I am what is called a [REDACTED] for [FORTUNE 500 COMPANY] working in the supply chain domain; this includes manufacturing, logistics, and distribution. If you share any of this information, please do not share my job title, name, or company. My job is to work with high-level company executives to understand their overall corporate strategy ($300k+ annual types), then with low-level distribution center and factory workers ($12-$15 an hour types) to understand their day-to-day jobs — and then deliver complex, multi-dimensional technology solutions that execute on those strategic goals while making life easier for floor workers. I really cut across income levels every day.
I also make a point of presenting an unassuming persona that has much to learn and is highly curious — this generally signals to the majority of people I work with that they can both a) impart their knowledge willingly to me and b) more importantly, speak candidly. In order to know what I need to deliver in a technology solution, I must understand the needs of the affected parties up and down the corporate ladder. This method of communication has proven effective in getting people to open up about what’s important to them, what’s challenging in their day-to-day jobs, and what they think would make the operation better in some way.
Oftentimes, this unassuming persona is also disarming in a way that seems to make people feel comfortable sharing personal thoughts and stories with me, well beyond anything work-related. I’ve had C-suite executives open up to me about booze and weed fueled nights of scandalous behavior on work trips, and hourly laborers open up to me about dying relatives and 9/11 conspiracy theories. I take pride in listening and in not betraying their trust. As a result, I believe (perhaps arrogantly) that I am uniquely positioned to make observations about both groups of people. I think this is unique because it is a largely non-political arena; most of these people’s primary concern is not what a Democrat or Republican said that day, but things like how to make sure the operation is maximally efficient or how to make sure (as an hourly associate) he or she doesn’t have to stay late that evening.