June 1, 2020

When the pot boils over

Lately it feels as though humanity has reached its breaking point. People are tired. Tired of being unemployed. Tired of being separated from loved ones. Tired of being sick, tired of being scared, tired of wondering if things will ever be normal again. Tired of inequality.

So very tired of inequality.

Data is showing us that deaths among black Americans in New York City are two times higher than the deaths of white Americans. The Hispanic death rate is 1.6 times higher. When we know that viruses do not see skin color we need to ask ourselves where this inequality is coming from. Why is staying healthy and safe during the time of COVID-19 a privilege that so many people of color are being denied?

When it seemed like help might be on the way in the form of stimulus checks, many families were informed that they wouldn’t be getting one. Married to an undocumented immigrant? It doesn’t matter if you’re a citizen and your children are citizens. No stimulus for you. Maybe you’ve been an upstanding human being and contributed to the greater good of society. Maybe you suddenly find yourself unemployed. Doesn’t matter. You fell in love with an illegal. Shame on you.

Sadly the inequality doesn’t end there.

Day after day, people of color are the subject of racial profiling and police brutality. They arouse suspicions in people when they are merely going about their daily lives. All because the color of their skin is different.

After thousands of years of existence, human beings (supposedly the most intelligent species on Earth) somehow cannot get past this notion of color. When we all come from the same place. When we all want the same things from life. When we all have common desires, fears, faults and strengths. After thousands of years we are no better off than when we started.

As a white woman, this is a difficult thing for me to write about. I don’t know what it’s like to be subject to racism and prejudice every day of my life. I don’t know what it feels like to be afraid of the people whose job it is to protect you. I’ve never experienced what it’s like to walk down the street wondering not if, but when I’ll be the focus of wrongful suspicions just because my skin is a certain color. I don’t know what it’s like; not feeling safe. But I do know that all of this feels wrong. And I need to do something to make it right.

This is the part of the story where I would normally say something cute about baking a cake when times are tough. But now is not the time for cute things and cake. Now is the time to think about the comforts and privileges that the color of your skin has afforded you. Now is the time to think about the way that you view and treat other people. Now is the time to question everything. Now is the time to be angry. And now is the time to do something meaningful with those emotions.

Voice your frustrations and anger. Call your local leaders, talk to your friends and family members, join a protest. But do so peacefully, respectfully. As much as we may want to lash out at times like this, hatred and violence only perpetuate more hatred and violence.

Reach out to those around you that may be hurting. Listen to what they have to say. Really listen. And offer help if they need it.

Educate yourself and then educate others.

Volunteer your time and do something to give back. Be the individual that actually turns their words of dissent into action. Tutor at risk teenagers, register people to vote, sign up to help a politician that you believe in.

And never become complacent. When the crowd disburses and the news moves on to the next big story, don’t lose focus. Remember these moments and don’t let your emotions fade with the news cycle. Moving on and falling back into old habits only guarantees that this history will repeat itself.

We may all be socially distanced, but we are still in this life together. Let’s start making it a life that everyone can take part in equally.