Social Distance highlights the greater distances between us all
Brandon Mack, M.Ed
Black Lives Matter Houston
One of the unfortunate byproducts of COVID-19/Coronavirus is that it brings to light inequities that already exist within society. As the news has been reporting, the virus is disproportionally affecting communities of color, but most specifically the Black/African American community. The reasons are rooted in many systemic oppressions such as lack of access to quality health care, economic inequality that leads to homelessness, unequal employment and educational opportunities, a criminal justice system (I prefer referring to it as a criminal procedure system) that punishes Black people more harshly than others which leads to mass incarceration, etc.
There are so many issues that this pandemic raises, but these issues have always been there. The only reason greater attention is paid to those issues now is the massive number of deaths. It is also sad that it takes a massive number of deaths to uplift these issues. However, I fail to see these issues addressed in plans for COVID-19. I am not seeing plans to expand access to testing and increased medical resources towards Black communities. I am not seeing the release of incarcerated people so that they do not have to endure a death sentence because they cannot afford bail. I am not seeing the redress of educational, employment, and economic inequalities that will move us towards greater parity.
If we had greater access to care, if we had better economic opportunities, if we had rehabilitation rather than punishment, it could lead to better health outcomes and not a massive number of deaths among Black people. Once more, we are not hearing the experiences of these marginalized communities, including some of the most marginalized like our Black transwomen. We need to hear more of the experiences of Black women who often serve as the frontline, essential workers such as doctors, nurses, food service employees, and public works employees. This is a critical time in our history, and during this period of social distancing we can come up with solutions that will bridge our divides and bring us closer to those ideals we state that we care about as a country: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Given how this pandemic has impacted almost every element of our lives, we are all going to have to create a “new normal.” Shouldn’t that normal be more like what we truly want to see in this world?
I ask you, what is the new normal you want to see?
For me, that new normal is one in which we uplift the voices of the most marginalized. It is one where we implement better access to health care. It is one where we fix educational inequalities. It is one where we have equal pay across all genders. It is one where we look at the America of the past, finally stop repeating history, and learn from our mistakes. It is sad that it takes death for us to address our problems, but hopefully this time around we actually do.