Memes Make It Clear: New York City's Vaccine Passport Is the Real Jim Crow 2.0

AP Photo/John Minchillo

New York City became the first major metro to require proof of vaccination to access restaurants, gyms, and other venues last week. Mayor Bill de Blasio proudly announced the “Key to New York City” pass, a vaccine passport, effective August 16. As Karol Markowicz pointed out, the vaccine passport erased children under 12 from public life because they cannot be vaccinated. The mayor’s office updated the policy to exempt them from the vaccine requirement and mandate masks for children instead.


Public policy is often full of unintended consequences. And while de Blasio and others like him are just sure they are sticking it to white Trump supporters with vaccine passports like these, nothing could be further from the truth. According to New York City’s tracking, only 32% of black residents are fully vaccinated, and 43% of Hispanic residents have taken the complete doses. White New Yorkers are not too much farther ahead with 46% participation, but the unvaccinated are probably not some reservoir of Trump support since the city went for Biden — he got 76% of the NYC vote.

Related: Daily Dose of Downey: Vaccine Passports Are Here, But Voter ID Is Still Racist

Reality is often very different than the preferred narrative on CNN. Several commentators on Fox and Twitter have pointed out the vaccine disparities by race. Now someone has taken to making memes to drive the point home. The series uses quotes from Ibram X. Kendi and displays all the difficulties unvaccinated minorities will face beginning August 16. While there is no confirmation that a Black Lives Matter chapter created them, the points are valid, and the hashtag #vaccinepassportsareracist is using them:


With the current vaccination rates and New York City’s diversity, it’s not clear how Mayor de Blasio expects businesses to run, let alone have significant numbers of patrons. Boston’s acting Mayor Kim Janey made some very pointed comments when asked about de Blasio’s vaccine passport:

“During slavery, post-slavery, as recent as, you know, what the immigrant population has to go through here, we’ve heard Trump with the birth certificate nonsense,” Janey told WCVB. “Here, we want to make sure that we are not doing anything that would further create a barrier for residents of Boston or disproportionally impact BIPOC communities.”

The truly ridiculous part of the policy is de Blasio did not even give the unvaccinated the time to become fully vaccinated. The mayor’s policy says one dose of the vaccine is required to obtain a Key, but even that makes zero sense. It is just a test to see if residents will do what they are told when politicians make their lives miserable enough.

According to the CDC, with Pfizer and Moderna it takes 35 and 42 days, respectively, to receive the two doses and become fully vaccinated. The Johnson and Johnson shot is effective after two weeks, but that brand is the least available in the U.S. by far. What happens if a New York City resident gets one mRNA vaccine, has a reaction, and decides to forego the second dose? Is their vaccine passport taken away? What about those with valid medical reasons that prohibit them from receiving the vaccine, such as Offspring drummer Pete Parada? The lawsuits are going to be a nightmare for the city.


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Now, at least one New York City borough is saying no. Staten Island is suing to get an injunction against the implementation of the vaccine passport. Borough presidential candidate Vito Fossella echoed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in his remarks:

“We represent the people who say no. So if you want to come for their jobs, if you want to come for their business, if you want to come for their liberty, and if you want to come for their freedom, we’re here to say we’re standing in your way.”

State Assemblyman Michael Reilly also shared that several members of his family have been advised against vaccination because they have an autoimmune disorder. He argued that people should have the right to weigh the health risks with their doctors and choose the best option for themselves without being ostracized.

Recommended: GOP Governors Must Stand Up to the Medical Authoritarianism of Biden Administration

The first-in-the-nation vaccine passport is taking some severe heat. Democrats do not have a defense to the charges of racism because their entire perspective is that all disparities result from systemic racism. And de Blasio’s policy will absolutely create real racial disparities. Now, the courts will weigh in on the legality of mandates from local officials. Soon, we will see this all over the country as businesses cave to the Biden administration’s medical authoritarianism and demands for vaccine mandates.



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