Where most of the articles in this blog will be about race, this one is about privilege.
When I heard that Prince Charles and British Prime Minster Boris Johnson have COVID-19, my immediate thought was, “Man, this is an equal opportunity bug!” It doesn’t care about “royal blood” or politics or bank accounts. It seeks to destroy respiratory systems without regard to class, race, location or education. Social distancing is the new norm for everyone who can manage it, and streets all over the world look like ghost towns. We’re zooming and facetiming and calling and writing, checking on friends and trying to stay connected. Many of us juggle working from home while simultaneously homeschooling our kids, all the while trying to keep anxiety and fear of the unknown at bay.
This pandemic is the great equalizer, and we’re all in this together – sort of.
I went grocery shopping this morning and noticed more people than ever wearing face masks and gloves. I tried to chat with the check-out lady while standing six feet back, and thought afterwards, “Who’s homeschooling her kids?” I bet she never thought she’d be putting her life on the line just by going to work. She along with those who stock the shelves sacrifice everyday so that we can eat. They can’t work at home and millions are no longer working at all.
During times such as these, everyone struggles but some much more than others. The privileged enjoy a level of security and stability that others do not have. We can generally work from home, where many have to go to work if they want to keep their jobs. We have computers, printers and iPads to aid homeschooling. We can make up work after hours, allowing time during the day to help kids download assignments and zoom with teachers. We can troubleshoot computer glitches and keep kids reading, thanks to Amazon.
But like many other things, pandemics are harder on the underprivileged. So many can’t stockpile food. They live week to week -- or day to day. Kids at home all day means struggling to feed them all day and finding someone to take care of them. Do we put grandma at risk by asking her to babysit, or do we leave the kids home alone?
Those with resources can stay afloat, try to stay safe and bounce back despite a mercurial stock market. Retirement savings take a hit, but jobs and homes remain secure. But those with less often can’t cope and don’t recover.
Underprivileged communities all over the world are reeling under this strange, terrible virus far more than the average suburban family. Those who depend on tourism to survive, or who feed their children by taxiing people around in cars, bicycles or rickshaws, or who pay their bills by sweeping out shops, or selling car parts: for these, the suffering and the danger are far greater. If you sell food in street markets, social distancing means losing income and so it’s not an option. The governments of so many nations can’t afford to dispense loans to help small business stay afloat, so these businesses will drown.
We know that life is not fair, but at times like this, the unfairness of it all feels more profound than others. Pandemics, like natural disasters, highlight social disparities. If you, or I struggle with a little boredom or fatigue crisis homeschooling our children, it would be right to remember that for so many homeschooling is not even an option.