With the worldwide onslaught of COVID-19, we have often heard about social distance; the practice of maintaining the distance between each other, to counteract the spread of the disease. This practice is for health reasons and is perfectly normal.

As a society though dealing with social distance is nothing new. It has previously practised as a reason to prop up the racist systems we have.

After Apartheid and the Jim Crow era-when laws that were racist were repealed, black and brown people were under the impression that discrimination was a thing of the past. But conscious and unconscious bias remained firmly in place and provided people with the perfect opportunity to maintain their prejudices.

Social distancing was always practised by people not wanting to socialize with people they felt were different from them.

The reasons people used for maintaining social distance was race, then came religion, class, sexual orientation and so on. Excuses were offered, such as different cultures or language. But is that not disguised as prejudice?

How do we get acquainted with people that are different from us when we choose not to get to know them in social circles?

Could this be the reason why racism has continued through the ages?

It’s easy to formulate misconceptions about people who are not like us! Unfortunately, when we don’t get to know people socially, we create a type of monster in our heads, and this leads to the biases that we have to contend with once we meet each other in a work environment.

So we mingle with people that look like us, that live close to us, that attend the same church as we do and within that closed social networks, we now find ourselves reading about other people instead of getting to know them.

We have distanced ourselves so much that when one of our children befriends children that don’t look like us, we then bring our unconscious and conscious bias to the fore and immediately seek to indoctrinate our children to be as prejudiced as we are. Instead of praising our children when they are willing to effect much-needed social change, we admonish them, and so the cycle of social distancing continues.

We learn about American and European history, but African history is “swept” under the proverbial carpet. We don’t want to know how an entire continent sustained itself and were the front runners in art, mathematics, philosophy, construction, and so on, because then we would have to acknowledge just how violently black and brown people were murdered, and their cultures destroyed.

So we comfort ourselves by lying and telling each other that Africans are violent, subhuman, sexually promiscuous, ignorant people who don’t know much and have difficulty learning.

Social distancing has become the norm before the pandemic and will likely continue unless we examine ourselves and our reasons for maintaining this social distance.

There is no valid reason or excuse that could be used, for parents whose children attend the same school, not to get together and learn about each other.

There is no valid reason or excuse why people who work together harmoniously can’t socialize together too.

The divide caused by racism continues under the guise of, “we have nothing in common,” and that plays into the hands of right-wing people that are driven by hate, not harmony.

Social distancing is social alienation based on prejudice, and a virus has given us the perfect opportunity to uphold our belief that we are “better.”