Tati Westbrook, the coronavirus, and privilege

If you haven’t seen Tati Westbrook’s latest Youtube video, do yourself a favor and just… don’t. I cannot believe I sat through 19 minutes of a grown ass woman telling me that coronavirus is like a new birth because “corona” means crown and crowning is what babies do when they’re born. Yes, she actually said that. Please take my word for it and do not subject yourself to the nonsense. It’s painful.

Normally I don’t like to draw attention to pseudoscience— if I wrote a blogpost every time I saw a rich white lady say that essential oils would cure all my woes, I’d never be able to do anything else. However, Tati has an enormous following and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of her subscribers believe that she is some sort of authority on supplements and immunity because of her supplement line (hint: she’s not). She did, however, say that she would like to ramp up production of her immunity boosters in light of COVID-19, which is sketchy at best. If immunity boosters kept you safe from this nationwide pandemic, I think we’d have heard about it by now from an actual medical authority.

I’m not going to take the time to critique every aspect of Tati’s newest video. I am, however, going to critique the privilege behind the entire video. Tati is an upperclass white woman. Of course, this wouldn’t save her from the high mortality rate of COVID-19 and I should give her credit for social distancing in spite of the low chance that this pandemic will hurt her personally (the bar is low, nowadays.) However, odds are, she isn’t staring down economic ruin as a result of this pandemic. 

I’m sure you’re all already aware of the economic impact of COVID-19 in the USA. People are being laid off left and right, businesses are shutting down, and parents are suddenly responsible for homeschooling and extra childcare. That’s not to mention the terror that comes with actually contracting COVID-19; the mortality rate is intimidating, of course, but the potential financial impact on people with no health insurance will be devastating. The US healthcare system is abysmal under normal circumstances. During this pandemic, contracting COVID-19 and surviving could mean a lifetime of medical debt. THINGS ARE NOT OKAY.

On top of that, there is a documented history of women’s health concerns being downplayed by medical professionals. This is even more exaggerated for women of color. Tati is, of course, a woman, and thus she is not entirely immune, but given that she is quarantined in a wealthy area and she herself is a wealthy women, presumably with health insurance, those risks are probably lowered. 

I don’t expect Tati to acknowledge her immense amount of privilege, nor do I think she should need to every time she discusses the current pandemic. We are all feeling the effects in one way or another. However, Tati’s video is particularly tone-deaf. Maybe quarantining feels like a fresh start or a “new birth” for her because she will come out of this relatively unscathed unless she is particularly unlucky. For the vast majority of us, this is not the case. We could be evicted or fall into a debt so deep that we cannot get back out. Millions of people could die, many of them elderly or immunocompromised. 

I want to note that Tati’s discussion of her own anxiety about the pandemic is certainly valid. Her privilege does not disqualify her from feeling that anxiety and fear. If she had just left it to a basic, run-of-the-mill self-care video, I wouldn’t be writing this. In addition to that, if Tati feels personally comforted by thinking about purple or whatever, she is absolutely entitled to do that. However, it is painfully ignorant for someone to look down from her perch of privilege and lecture us on looking at a freaking pandemic in a more positive light. 

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