Saturday, March 28, 2020

Who Lives Who Dies

The announcement that all child care operations in Maryland were ordered to close, save for the ones serving the children of essential workers, prompted a sermon from me on Facebook yesterday.

I know I am most likely preaching to the choir here, but I hope that anyone reading this understands that every single child care professional working right now is putting their life on the line daily, just as much as the essential personnel they support. We have to assume that every child and every parent dropping off and picking up is an asymptomatic carrier. The likelihood that teachers/carers will get sick is exponentially increased.

It’s probable that these providers are not in a position to “not work”. Pay in early childhood jobs is abysmal. I know teachers and assistants who work two and three jobs. Please keep these amazing people in your thoughts. Without childcare the work of so many that we desperately need right now would not be possible.

And maybe we could circle back on this conversation a year from now, okay?

This morning I read a statement originating from India pointing out that the quarantine to protect ourselves and otherS from Covid-19 is essentially a quarantine of privilege. It’s heartbreaking in its thoroughness.

A view from an Indian doctor: 

"Social distancing is a privilege. It means you live in a house large enough to practise it. Hand washing is a privilege too. It means you have access to running water. Hand sanitisers are a privilege. It means you have money to buy them. Lockdowns are a privilege. It means you can afford to be at home. Most of the ways to ward the Corona off are accessible only to the affluent. In essence, a disease that was spread by the rich as they flew around the globe will now kill millions of the poor. All of us who are practising social distancing and have imposed a lockdown on ourselves must appreciate how privileged we are. Many Indians won’t be able to do any of this."

Anyone who doesn’t have this level of affluence is forced to be out and about in order to do the things necessary for survival. That’s not true only in India.

The Baltimore Sun shared an article from the New York Times about how the pandemic is magnifying America’s class divide. From the article by Noam Scheiber, Nelson D. Schwartz, and Tiffany Hsu:

This is a white-collar quarantine,” said Howard Barbanel, a Miami-based entrepreneur who owns a wine company. “Average working people are bagging and delivering goods, driving trucks, working for local government.”


Still, a kind of pandemic caste system is rapidly developing: the rich holed up in vacation properties; the middle class marooned at home with restless children; the working class on the front lines of the economy, stretched to the limit by the demands of work and parenting, if there is even work to be had.

So it isn’t just child care workers who are laying their lives on the line every day. It’s every single person who is forced by their financial circumstances to do the work the rest of us don’t or won’t. We would not survive without them.

But is that acceptable? We go online daily encouraging each other to “stay at home” and we share our struggles with feeling homebound, finding toilet paper, keeping up with the needs of our children. But, despite its challenges, this is a lovely bubble we are in. Columbia/HoCo likely has plenty of us. 

That bubble shields us even more than usual from those who do not share our privilege.  I’ve been seeing memes about how the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted that people who work in food service, delivery, cleaning hospitals, grocery store workers, and so on are considered members of the essential workforce, and that it’s about time they got a living wage.

Right now the differences between the privileged and those who are struggling could not be more stark. Especially since a “living wage” could very well be the difference between who lives and who dies. 

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