Whew, chile! We are living through a time! Unprecedented in more ways than one. The world is living through a global pandemic. Yet, the United States is adding its own special sauce of rugged individualism, self-aggrandized elitism, and faux-exceptionalism, always with a dash of structural racism, to the mix.
I was born in the United States. I’ve never lived abroad. I don’t know another way of being. While as a Black woman in this country, I’ve never lain the fate of my life let alone my well-being in the hands of the government, I’ve always been quite comfortable benefiting from some the inherent privileges that come along with a post-Civil Rights, well-educated, adequately-employed lifestyle that most Americans of my station do. As most Americans, I never fathomed having an egomaniacal, sociopathic, idiot as the President of the country. And certainly not in an era of an unprecedented global pandemic. And yet…here we are. As a result, we have the world’s highest rates of infection and deaths in this country. A good deal of the loss preventable.
Added to this mix, large parts of this country are awakening to a concept of racial justice that hasn’t been conceived, discussed, or efforted towards in decades. In that a great deal of my personal and professional identity and energies center around social justice, this racial awakening the country is having is quite disorienting. The number of Black men, women, and trans folx that have been killed, many videotaped for the world to see, hurts my heart and spirit in a way that I’ve yet to name. My desire to do my part for them and countless others that we may never know is an unceasing burn in my body. Moreover, the numbers and even my personal anecdotal experience, continues to demonstrate that Black and Latinx people are acquiring and dying at disproportionate rates from COVID-19. There is a special sort of undignified grief to knowing your loved one died alone and then having to attend their funeral via Skype, if there is one at all. My intention to live my life and raise my beautiful, intelligent, talented, creative, and spirited daughter with as much freedom as I can create is an ever-present living thing. As a result of all of this, I’m in this space of incredulity, hope, fatigue, weariness, grief, optimism, seeking, and feeling energized. It’s a LOT.
If racism is America’s greatest legacy, capitalism is it’s puppet master. Because of the pandemic, the world’s economy has come up against a challenge like never before. Here in the US we are seeing, unprecedented unemployment claims with no end in sight. Many small businesses are forced to close permanently. All while major corporations are sitting on their fat asses collecting government handouts.What we’re reckoning with is the ugliest, most pernicious, and dysfunctional parts of capitalism. We are literally in a conversation, whether we acknowledge it or not, about the price of a human life. It is that fundamental.
The government in all of its glorious lack of imagination has one play and one play only — keep the money moving. And the money doesn’t move without people. But it also believes that, many, many, many of the people are expendable. Poor and working class people are expendable. Black and Brown people are expendable. Undocumented people are expendable. Children are expendable. Women are expendable.
We are all victims of and contributors to capitalism. The question is when, where, and how do we push back on the monstrous nature of it. For me the answer became an easy one. I’m not willing to give my life or my daughter’s life for a dollar. In my view, this moment has revealed the fundamental role compulsory education of children plays in the puppet master’s hands — a warehouse. The children must have some place to go so that the adults can go to work in the big machine called the economy. Then came this microscopic virus to put a halt to the whole damn thing. Coronavirus shut it all down and the machine doesn’t know how to repair itself using its own tools.
We are now in month five in the US of battling (?) coronavirus. The conversation has turned to opening schools back up for the fall semester. I knew from the beginning of the conversation, that I wasn’t going to send my daughter back to school. I am fully aware of how much my socioeconomic status and class privilege contributed to my decision being an easy one — practically and economically. The emotional labor and impact of my choice won’t be fully understood until this is all over.
However, I don’t believe my privilege was the sole reason for my decision. In the spring, my manager kept telling me that I needed to make a plan to return to work at any moment if necessary. I told her repeatedly and directly, “You will have to fire me because I’m not risking my or my daughter’s life.” She never had a rebuttal. I was prepared then and am prepared again to make a way out of no way if the choice becomes work/school and risk being infected or stay home and try to keep us safe. I think the worst part of capitalism is lulling us into believing we can live life alone if we just have enough money and stuff. The reality is what we need most is community. I’m completely convinced that when we come together to serve a common good and put our collective talents and efforts together, we can get anything done. A-NY-THING. Ain’t no way providing my child with an adequate education, isn’t among them.
I’m fortunate, that my job and my child’s school district are in alignment for the foreseeable future. That is a privilege I will benefit from. However, I will continue to dream and imagine and seek out community. As a Black woman, a working professional, and a single parent, I’m keenly aware that no parts of this society is made for me. I make it work for me and my child. I will do nothing different or less as this virus continues to rage on and as the government continues to serve its puppet master. I encourage you to dedicate some time and energy to imagining and dreaming about what you want for your life and your child/ren’s life in the midst of this epic debacle. What resources do you have that you haven’t tapped into? Where can you find access to them? Who do you need to help you? What’s the risk in reaching out for help? What’s the risk in trying a new way? How can you center your humanity and your freedom at the core of your life? I believe we all have the answers to those questions in us. We just have to start having the conversations.
The Dr. Is N! Make sure to click the applause hands on the left before you go!