Because of lack of resources like medical access, wealth building vehicles which grant access to things like treatment, and medical neglect (Because it isn’t new news that our medical needs are often not believed and/or taken seriously) a pandemic like this could tremendously impact as well as harm African American communities which are disproportionately likely to experience poverty. With that being said, as the outbreak and fear of the corona virus rises, and we see more and more universities, businesses, and recreational facilities closing, I implore those in power to find solutions that are not just focused on limiting their own liability, but that are geared toward the overall success and preservation of the people in which they serve. I also entreat community members to offer assistance to one another when and if possible, because there are systemic barriers which allow us to be exposed frequently and to go without access to care.
The Commonwealth Fund inquires “What is it like for people living in poverty to take the afternoon off to go see a doctor?…Not only do they forgo badly needed wages, but often they must also find someone to watch their children and then scramble to catch a ride or come up with bus fare – only to spend five minutes with the doctor and leave with a prescription that doesn’t address their most pressing concerns.”
In the midst of a pandemic such as COVID-19, to be low income in the United States, where there is no access to universal healthcare could be almost synonymous with death. In order to somewhat stop the spread of disease, these institutions find themselves extending Spring Breaks, and switching to online platforms for what seems to be a large portion of the remaining year. While in theory, this seems like the most feasible option, I would argue that doing so puts a large fraction of these students at risk.
One twitter user (@meiyarose) argues that “evacuating colleges assumes that 1. Students have a safe home to return to, and 2. That students have access to wifi/computers at home for online classes”, and this in itself being done by Historically Black Institutions, which compared to PWI’s, enroll more students from lower socioeconomic statuses according to the United Negro College Fund, is counterproductive to the goal of HBCUs which pride themselves on being “committed to providing educational access and opportunity to students of varied educational backgrounds.” For many students, historically Black institutions are their home. It isn’t just about academics, it is access- access to safe housing, to a health center which can provide basic care, and resources which they would not otherwise have access to off-campus, including internet. Especially being that more than four-in-ten low income families don’t have home broadband services (44%) or a traditional computer (46%). according to Pew Research, online courses aren’t always practical. So, while I do believe that this transition is in the best interest of the students as far as social distancing, I believe that it would be negligent for school administrations to fail to offer flexibility for assignment completion at a time such as this. With their return home, many students-especially low income ones- may need to return to their jobs at supermarkets or other in order to help their families. Because of this, tasks such as mandatory zoom attendance for a grade could be not only detrimental to student’s progress, but to the survival of poor families- including an abundance of African American homes. This leads me to request that those in positions of authority find ways to educate and assess students while also being willing to compromise as well as modify.
I also implore Black communities to aid one another during this time, because in the words of Jay-Z ” nobody wins when the family feuds”. With the current condition of the United States including mass layoffs and self isolation, we are bound to see an increase in crime related to poverty, and suicide rates due to the stress that is associated with being poor and/or low income and the loneliness of social distancing. Check in on one another, even if it is just a quick phone call to your neighbor. If you’re in a financial position, help purchase groceries for someone who is not. Look out for one another and ensure that every person is in a position to be somewhat if not fully secure. Be someone’s stability. Start a Facebook group for community members to post resources and connect. Yes…Black people can get “the Rona” too and unity in the face of uncertainty is essential because community support can make a world of difference. If no one will aid us, we will aid ourselves.