Living in Queens, New York, one of the epicenters of the pandemic in the USA, illness, death and sorrow of strangers, acquaintances and loved ones are daily headlines. As part of the 4 Real Women International Sisterhood, I also get a view into the how the tentacles of this pandemic have inflicted havoc on the world. This Corona Virus does not seem to discriminate; people of all colors, ages, genders, nationalities, religions and ethnicities have died. It has also manifested that the human family is undeniably inter-connected.
However, the virus has come to reveal some deep social vulnerabilities that have divided us long before its arrival. In greater numbers men, and specifically blacks, people of color and immigrants have been victims. For men, the long held socialized tendencies of not accessing medical help with regularity could be great part of the cause. For the second group, long held social inequalities are part of the issue. While a lot of mention is made of comorbidities prevalent in both groups, (hypertension, diabetes, etc.) very little reference is made to other conditions that are perhaps greater offending factors.
- Living in crowded geographical settings with reduced green space,
- unaffordable housing,
- houses, apartments and basements with low square-footage and high numbers of occupants,
- air pollution,
- limited access to affordable healthy food options,
- lack of medical provisions through a system that barters health, not as a human right but as a commodity.
These are serious factors that are leaving us victimized by and unprotected from the virus. Added to that, information about the virus seems to change weekly. The virus is novel in its manifestation. As Dr Tricia Penniecook reminded us during the C.A.R.E Connection Series, there is a lot about how this virus behaves that scientists are still finding out; our best bet is to maintain protective measures.
To the previous factors, let’s add the fact that women are in large numbers on the front line of this pandemic.We are the care givers and essential workers at home and in society. Statistics reveal that 80% of health care workers in the US are women. For women the pandemic hits even harder. While we are caring and working, we are also grieving the loss of our fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, cousins and husbands. And, for women of color and immigrants, we are also sheltering in communities that are deeply impacted by COVID-19. For women, this pandemic is all encompassing, it touches almost every aspect of our lives.
In the midst of this daunting panorama, like me, you have seen the mindless behavior of friends who throw social distancing to the wind and insist on sharing unmasked pics and selfies in close proximity. You’ve also seen the lines of women waiting to get their nails done, or large numbers of people at the beach, parks or on the streets, after their state leadership prematurely lifted social distancing guidelines. You’ve also seen the crowds, of mostly men, waiting to buy the new Air Jordans. And, like me you have perhaps wondered what would possess them to behave this way? But, I am sure that you have also heard your Christian friends boast that either they have, or can, overcome COVID-19 because their belief in God has inoculated them from the Corona Virus. False equivalencies that have resulted in the death of many Christians, including ministers.
Your phone and social media feed are probably crammed with alarming videos shared and posted by well-meaning folk. With “experts” who assert that Gates, Fauci and Zuckerberg are out to get us. That this is population control at its best. That this is an attempt to inject us all with vaccines that will cripple us mentally. That COVID-19 was bio-engineered; intended as a weapon of war.
If being caught between these doom-like realities and conspiracy theories, were not cause for heightened anxiety, we can now add the relaxing of social distancing guidelines way before scientifically recommended. A relaxing of guidelines centered in the fear of a failing economy. The hard facts are that the unemployment numbers are staggering and money in the streets could probably give the economy a jolt of life. Some politicians, pundits and well-respected TV celebrities have even been bold enough to state that we should be willing to sacrifice the elderly and even our school-aged children to save the economy. Unfortunately, none of them stated that they were wiling to put their grandparents, parents or children on the line of sacrifice. For the truth is, that they are not the ones dying in larger numbers, it is us. It is our men, our women, our children, our parents, and our grandparents.
These really are life and death decisions. Your decisions matter because standing in a line for vanity sake, going to a crowded beach, or taking a selfie or pic to look cute with your friends, are not innocuous actions. In fact, they are self-centered. At the same time using religion to undercut common sense and pitting science against the Bible is highly presumptuous. Because yes, it is your right to choose to get infected, but you could potentially also infect someone I care for. And, yes, I get it; we are all suffering from Quarantine Fatigue. This is a lot, but not enough to sacrifice your life. One day it will end; right now we are in survival mode. Survival, by whatever means necessary. Prioritize your survival and that of your family. Your survival means my survival.
Norka Blackman-Richards, is a citizen of the world, the founder and CEO of the non-profit organization, 4 Real Women International Inc, and a higher education professional. She lives in Queens, New York and as of March 15, 2020 she has been in quarantine with her husband, Warner.