I woke up this morning to rain falling and echoes of my children talking. It is a normalness that I have been accustomed to but soon I remember that it’s Sunday and I will need to flip on the television or log on to my computer for church service.
I admit that I do not go to church regularly but having restrictions of not having the option to put on my Sunday’s best, get in my car, and drive to the brick and mortar for communion is unsettling.
Unsettling? There are so many things that are unsettling about our times but in my haste to unscramble my thoughts I remember what is familiar—poverty and inequality. I grew up in a 3-bedroom/1-bath home with 8 other family members. I think about what it felt like to always be in close quarters and how there was no escaping to be alone with my thoughts. There was no central heating or air conditioning so, in the summer, flipping my pillow over throughout the night gave me the illusion that I was cooling off. Having two meals was expected and one came from the free lunch program at school. I remember being in the dark due to no electricity but having one meal that day. Having access to a computer was the furthest thing from my mind and getting access to pen and paper was a challenge at best. I not only think about poverty but inequality and how it is not so different. Not having access to food or space is circumstance but it is also the direct effect of inequality that is deeply rooted in the disproportioned world of African-Americans. So many historical facts and events occurred during or before my childhood. My ancestry is hard to define because of constant tragedy from child lynching to fatal collisions and those events were placeholders that championed poverty.
I can remember digging my way out of poverty and fighting to become an educated Black woman with a path to success. Because of inequality and poverty, it did not come easy. Now I see an economy that is crumbling and that more than 30% of African-Americans make up the COVID 19 cases in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Let’s be real, this is a direct reflection of working frontline jobs that barely make ends meet that can be tied to lack of education, lack of transportation, and many racial inequalities that affect how we function in society.
Ralph Emerson said, “Cause and effect are two sides of one fact”. (Gray 293)The truth is, in this country, poverty is an effect of inequality and inequality is the cause of poverty. I see poor children (just like I was) suffering because their parents have been laid off or they have no transportation to get the one meal that is offered through the school lunch program. I see children that have no access to continuing their education at home (which is a requirement in this state—Georgia) because they have no computer or internet access. I see families living in 3-bedroom/1-bath homes shared by 9 people that, once, had hoped to change their environment and circumstance, now, having to choose between having electricity or eating a meal. I also see these same people not having the ability to gain healthcare that can save their lives. What do their futures look like? How do those children become first-generation college students? How do they recover from the Coronavirus without healthcare? We are at war with a pandemic that has robbed us of social and economic liberties. So, as we shelter in place, COVID 19 is a reminder that social and economic liberties have different definitions—that’s all I am saying.
We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. Right?
ABC News, ABC News Network, abcnews.go.com/Health/coronavirus-updates-trump-speak-world-leaders-coronavirus-response/story?id=70178711.
Gray, Henry David. Emerson: A Statement of New England Transcendentalism as Expressed in the Philosophy of Its Chief Exponent. Nabu Press, 2010.