It is long past time to talk about race. All people are God’s beloved children, but humans have structured systems so that, as a white person, I have a wide range of privileges and my black and brown sisters and brothers have as many obstacles.
Now, in the midst of COVID-19, the inequalities are especially striking.
You’re expected to show up for work, but your duties require close personal contact without protective equipment.
You’re told to stay home, but home is a crowded boarding house that becomes a virus hot spot.
You’re told to stay in your car, but transportation for you is a bus or skateboard.
You’re required to go to school online, but you have no phone or data plan.
You’re advised to consult your primary care physician, but your only option without health insurance is the emergency department.
Others demand freedom to go where they want to go, to not be locked down, but you too often are among the incarcerated or at least consigned to the choices others have made.
During a time when some are working remotely, staying at home and driving through to pick up necessities (and extras), essential workers have to show up in person to serve us and supply our needs — and wants.
Personal care, retail, food service, delivery to our doors, construction and meat processing can’t be done remotely, but we expect these services and amenities to continue. We may only notice black and brown people in these high-exposure jobs when they aren’t there.
Separate and definitely not equal is the way humans have almost always done things, but it is not the way of God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done on Earth.
With the rise of hate tweets and harmful policies and deadly disease spreading through inequitable economy, the gap between white privilege and black and brown realities is unmistakable.
Long before the racial disparities in COVID-19 illness and death, life expectancy varied as much between census tracts on different sides of Greensboro as it did between First World and Third World countries, due to inequities in community conditions.
Racial segregation and deteriorating housing are some of the legacies of “redlining.”
After World War II, by law, mortgages were not approved in the red areas on maps marking African American neighborhoods, which depressed property values and restricted resources for housing repairs. African Americans could not move out to live in “white” neighborhoods, and because of their depressed housing values, have seldom been able to accumulate the “property wealth” that white persons in white neighborhoods have been privy to.
Even after these practices ended, the formerly redlined areas were considered “blighted” and homes and businesses were bulldozed to make room for redevelopment. Subprime mortgage lending stripped equity out of the community. Low property values attract investors who may rent the homes “as is”; rehab financing is costly, so they would need to raise rents to repay the debt. For tenants earning low wages or receiving disability income, the higher rents and/or lower quality contribute to frequent moves, as tenants desperately seek a more sustainable situation. And so on.
Federal policies wobble from one impulsive order to another, without consideration for the collateral damage to black and brown people at the highest risk.
But in Greensboro, community generosity and heroic front-line workers bridge some of the racial and economic divides to distribute food, computers and internet access, masks and sanitizer and toilet paper. Hospitals and clinics have pivoted to triage and protective gear and telemedicine; food suppliers donate tons of food; schools deliver thousands of lunches and lesson packets; businesses have retooled to fabricate face shields and brew sanitizer; professionals contribute expertise to advise companies and nonprofit organizations; virus relief funds collect donations and allocate money.
Safety for all God’s beloved children. No exceptions.