As the ebook version of my book, An Unintentional Accomplice, goes into production this week, COVID-19 is raging around the world. In addition to creating cross-sector, worldwide human suffering, the spread of the coronavirus in America is also exposing the vulnerability of a social safety net supposedly designed to aid and protect all Americans from hunger, poverty, and economic hardship. While the coronavirus is no respecter of socio-economic status, and each and every one of us is profoundly affected, it has also “exposed” the role race and class has played in the systemic mismanagement of the pandemic, in much the same way as did Hurricane Katrina. The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound effect on the working class, low-wage, and the poor, many of whom aren’t paid if they miss work and are least able to afford it. According to a 2019 Federal Reserve study, 40 percent of Americans could not come up with $400 to cover an emergency. Given the occupational segregation in the nation, when I think of these low-wage workers they’re more likely to be women, immigrants, black and Latino workers This pandemic will certainly hit some communities harder than others. COVID-19 may help us understand the depth of the racial and class divide in American society. Let us take a heartfelt look at how to build an America that includes everyone. We also need a sweeping examination of how racism and classism has broken the country’s social compact, and stunted the development of nearly every institution crucial for a healthy society. This includes organized labor, public education, wage and hour standards, job-based health and retirement security, as well as our social safety net, which should be available for all Americans, regardless of race, class, or ethnicity. So now, a pandemic that will surely change our manner of living is successfully highlighting our underlying U.S. social and economic disparities. This is part of embracing and telling the full story. It is within that vulnerability our strength and healing lies. Please stay safe and take care of each other. Be well.
Carolyn L. Baker, M.Ed. is the author of An Unintentional Accomplice: A Personal Perspective on White Responsibility who grew up in segregated Southern California and came of age in the counter-cultural 1960s. www.anunintentionalaccomplice.com