As I write about this new norm, I must reflect on the privilege that I have – food, shelter, employment, general freedom. My family and close friends have stayed healthy throughout these “unprecedented times.”
Sure, taking classes online and wearing a mask 8 hours a day can be rather uncomfortable and inconvenient. My glasses are always fogging up.
Sure, the possibility of becoming ill weighs heavy on my conscience. People depend on me and I can be quite unbearable when sick.
Indeed, my life has been altered slightly over the last several months, however, this moment is bigger than me.
So, when I think of what people have now coined the “new norm”, I think about the Black, Brown and poor folks who are most affected in this moment. I think about my most vulnerable neighbors and how this pandemic has altered their lives.
I think about the elderly.
I think about the houseless.
I think about those struggling to provide for their families.
I think about those who are incarcerated.
This is in no way intended to negate the very real feelings of people who fall outside the groups I mentioned. Rather, this is my way of highlighting the faulty infrastructures, age-long injustices, and contradictory values of this nation.
At the same time the United States claims to be “the richest country in the world,” we have high rates of poverty, and an alarming number of men, women, and children living on the streets. According to the 2018 census, 38.1 million people are living in poverty, struggling to provide the basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter for their loved ones.
In America, there are aproximately 567,715 houseless folks, and of that number 37.2% do not have access to any form of shelter. Rather than addressing these issues, the United States criminalizes it’s poor and hungry through the local, state, and federal penal systems. It should be no surprise to anyone that the United States has more people in prison than any other country in the world.
Many people do not want to talk about the fact that in 88 U.S. counties, the jail population is higher now than it was before the pandemic began. The United States economy thrives off of the exploitation and marginalization of its most vulnerable citizens, making it clear that they do not care about Black, Brown, and poor bodies.
James Baldwin once said, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” As future leaders in this country, we must hold America accountable. We must join together and dismantle the racist, sexist, and classist system that relies on the vulnerability of our community members. We must think about liberation rather than exploitation. It is then that we shall ascribe to a “new norm.”