BY KIARA LEE-HEART
I’m writing this in the midst of the global pandemic that is the Novel Coronavirus. Many of us Black folk have simply coined it “’Rona” or “that ‘Rona.” No matter what you may call it, it’s striking people all around the country and all around the world at alarming rates. This deadly virus wreaks havoc in the body, often causing high body temperatures, a dry cough and breathing difficulties. Although it is a global pandemic and no one place or group of people has gone unscathed of its wrath, Black people are particularly at a disadvantage in the battle against this invisible enemy. In my humble opinion, Black women, regardless of location, occupation or health status, are universally working the front lines in an additional battle: keeping our villages safe and informed amidst the apathy, misinformation and marginalization that makes us overrepresented in virus cases and causalities.
We are constantly warning and informing. Our parents, aunties and grandparents have been through a whole lot, and to many of them, this is just another struggle to go down in the books. Our friends are stubborn and still holding gatherings and doing other things against the wise counsel of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), Dr. Anthony Fauci or Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. Our relatives may not necessarily be naysayers, but some of them may not be as phased or fearful as we are and we are very concerned. So we’re trying our best to correct their reckless behavior (i.e. not protecting themselves from the virus, going out and about like business as usual, etc.) and keep them updated on the latest developments. While other people have the privilege of watching the news and keeping up with things for their own individual consumption, many of us Black women are looking out for news about Uncle’s job with the virus outbreak, relaying information to grandma Rosie about her “sugar” and the virus and making sure our parents, partners and children are eating and living right during this extremely unsettling moment.
We have to take the lead in taking precautions. Within our own homes, we’re planning to ensure food lasts to minimize trips to the grocery store, and when we do make those trips, some of us are even managing to sanitize the groceries when we get home. We’re often setting the tone for somewhat-healthy diets in our households. In many instances, we lead the charge of cleaning and disinfecting, doing our best to keep things clean. Furthermore, we’re monitoring the comings and goings of our household in a world where staying home is the best defense against the virus. In the face of adversity, we are leading, be it up front or behind the scenes.
We carry the burden of living in the margins. For many of us, our family members are essential workers. The mental stress of their potential risks in the workplace and our own physical exposure to them presents a unique stressor. The marginalization of our own contrasts greatly with the low risks posed to others with the privilege of working from home or not working at all (but still getting paid, nonetheless). Some of our loved ones have pre-existing conditions that are barely managed (often a result of low income, limited access, etc.), and we know that those people have an increased risk of complications from the virus. We know that everyone is not socially distancing, whether it’s because they’re an essential employee or because they simply aren’t aware of the life-threatening dangers of gathering at this point in time. And to top it off, all we have to do is log in to social media to see photos of crowded outdoor spaces, parties and cookouts in which we are the overwhelming majority. In some way, Black folk are always living in the margins, but it is mentally cumbersome to expel the energy to navigate and mediate our oppressed position in wake of a global health crisis – but we must.
Black women are left holding down the fort on a normal day, but unfortunately, today the burden is extra heavy. In the near future, let’s call on our village to figure out how we can strengthen the foundation of our house of cards, so we can all be good as a collective once “that ‘Rona” passes, but for now, Black women, we must find coping strategies for our own selves to lighten the load someway, somehow, for if we crumble, the rest of the cards will come tumbling down right behind us – in the midst of a global pandemic.