COVID-19 continues to ravage our country – exposing shocking systemic inequities. Of course, no one should be surprised – these things were bubbling under the surface all along. It took a global pandemic, silencing the hum of productivity, to reveal our shaky foundation.
The higher COVID-19 death rate among Americans of color highlights the disparities in our social services and our health care system, magnifying the inaccessibility issues in our most vulnerable communities.
Of course, it doesn’t end with Americans of color – we’ve never really understood intersectionality in this country. The glaring inability of our most essential workers to protect their families – both by being able to stay home and by paying their bills – is heartbreaking.
Our small businesses – the core of our communities – cannot pay employees, rent, and other bills. Meanwhile, our legislatures and courts operate remotely and force their citizens out in public to exercise their right to vote. I’m looking at you, Wisconsin.
Social media is filled with posts – many along party lines – stay at home! open up the country! – both sides too entrenched to really grapple with the intricacies of those imperatives.
We cannot continue this shut down and we cannot reopen. To do either is a death sentence for our most vulnerable populations. When I teach my critical thinking class, I caution my students not to get caught in the either/or conundrum – and if this isn’t a terrible either/or conundrum I don’t know what is.
We must move forward. But, we are immobilized by an invisible enemy, ineffective leadership – and by our own viewpoint and lens.
Our systems are broken – and those systems are our core. So, how do we move forward and protect our most vulnerable populations? The answer isn’t economic or legal or social or medical or even philosophical. It is all of those things – and more. Divorcing the issues from the basic problems stunts our ability to come up with innovative, compassionate solutions.
Our path forward must be based in responsible science and medicine. Our path forward must encompass the significant portion of the workforce who cannot continue to shutter their businesses – and their employees. Our path forward must consider our essential workers. Our path forward must provide for those who have lost their jobs. Our path forward must recognize that tying healthcare to employment creates significant basic insecurity for millions of Americans. Our path forward must press into all of these uncomfortable places. Our path forward must go back to these basics before it can build out.
Until we recognize that societal issues are business issues, we will remain frozen. Our solution has to build out from our collective humanity.