The loss of face-to-face interaction with peers and social networks was picked as a major effect of the Covid-19 lockdown. In addition, interaction with strangers in public spaces, work or study spaces was reported as an unexpected loss linked to the pandemic. This loss of physical connectivity was only partially addressed by social media, which was described both as a source of support and anxiety.
The pilot research also revealed the impact of Covid-19 and successive lockdowns on Black and minoritized adults’ sense of identity. In particular, lived experiences and media coverage of the differentiated impact of the pandemic on Black and minoritised communities contributed to increased identity awareness among this demographic. This came with the realisation that those who shared their identity were over-represented in essential services and the most precarious jobs – occupations that were adversely impacted by Covid-19.
In some cases, this coincided with a heightened sense of disenchantment with the state and dominant institutions. Focus group discussions revealed many cases of institutional bias or negligence; many participants felt that the government is ‘not speaking for us’ or ‘not focusing on us’. In the face of governmental failings, Black and minoritised communities have had to rely on stretched community networks for access to essential goods, services and support.
The Black Lives Matter protests, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, further contributed to sharpen identity-based discussions. For many participants, they stressed the value of adopting a racial prism to understand the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 and lockdowns on Black and minoritised communities in England.
Navigating space under lockdown has underlined the deep, differentiated, impact of the pandemic on young Black and minoritised adults in England. It has shed some light on the links between housing, work, access and mental health; and how these factors have interacted to produce differentiated experiences of lockdowns for diverse groups of young Black and minoritised adults.
The research has pointed to the vulnerability of many in this demographic, with prolonged lockdowns often compounding already-existing inequalities linked to precarious housing and employment conditions. But it has also highlighted the remarkable resilience and adaptability of young minoritised adults, aided by technological know-how and, in many instances, social media.
In such contexts, community networks have been crucial pillars, filling in gaps left by government and state agencies. An important question emerging from this research is thus: how far and for how long can these networks, most affected by the pandemic, continue to pick up the slack?