Posted on Leave a comment

Positives of the Pandemic

By: Samah Atique

With the coronavirus rapidly spreading around the world and impacting the lives of billions of people across the globe, it’s easy to focus on all the adverse consequences of the pandemic, as much of my last piece did. It’s especially easy when you wake up every morning to news of extended shelter-in-place mandates, tragic stories of people losing their loved ones, and economists warning of an upcoming recession. However, despite the focus on the negative effects of the virus, it’s important to shed light on some of the good that has come about over the past few months as a gentle reminder that things aren’t all bad. By no means is this piece meant to disregard the gravity of the situation or ignore the chaos it has caused, but rather to share some positive news and reasons to remain hopeful during these trying times.

For example, regardless of the strict social distancing measures that have yet to be lifted in many parts of the world, today’s digital age offers several opportunities for people to stay connected online. Whether it be hosting Google Hangout game nights with friends, tuning into food bloggers sharing their favorite recipes on Instagram Live, or de-stressing through yoga videos on Youtube, there are several opportunities for people to feel less alone and maintain virtual contact with their loved ones. Many health and wellness coaches have also developed free workout programs for people to follow during the quarantine to stay active. However, writing this from a place of privilege, I understand that nearly half of the global population does not currently have access to the internet and therefore does not have the luxury to enjoy these means. 

Fortunately, there are also endless offline opportunities that have been keeping people occupied over the past few months. Whether it be journaling, drawing, crocheting, or meditating, the pandemic has encouraged many to take on activities that they were unable to find time for during their normal working hours. It is also the perfect chance to catch up on lost sleep and squeeze in as many naps during the day that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
The shelter-in-place mandates have pushed people around the globe to take up valuable hobbies and activities that they may not have gotten the opportunity to do otherwise. And, just like all other calamities, this too will pass and hopefully leave the world with valuable insights and ways to mitigate the damage of future outbreaks. 

Posted on Leave a comment

COVID-19 Pandemic Disproportionately Affecting Women and People of Color

By: Claire Armstrong

We all know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers are shouldering more than their share of the burden to protect our people and keep our country running. What we often neglect to discuss, however, is that women, immigrants, and minorities make up the majority of workers on the frontlines. According to the New York Times, “one in three jobs held by women has been designated as essential,” and women of color are even more likely to be essential workers. Under the umbrella of “essential workers” are social workers, healthcare workers, critical retail workers, medical supplies distributors, food processing workers, delivery and warehousing workers, and more. A study by the New York Times states that over 75% of social workers and healthcare workers performing essential work are women, and over 50% of critical retail essential workers are women. Overall, the study found that 52% of essential workers are women. AP News reported that “in New York City, more than 76% of healthcare workers are people of color.” And healthcare is not the only essential work sector made up of a majority of people of color. AP News also noted that “More than 60% of warehouse and delivery workers in most cities are people of color,” nearly 60% of grocery store workers in most cities are nonwhite, and 74% of janitors in most cities are people of color. This is only a small sampling of essential work industries in which people of color are taking on the majority of the work.

An article in The Guardian found that female healthcare professionals on the frontlines are in greater danger than male healthcare professionals because personal protective equipment, or PPE, is designed for men, meaning that it is too large for many female healthcare professionals. The article quotes Dr Helen Fidler, the deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) UK consultants committee, as saying, “Women’s lives are absolutely being put at risk because of ill-fitting PPE. We know that properly fitted PPE works, but masks are designed for a male template, with the irony being that 75% of workers in the NHS [United Kingdom National Healthcare Service] are female.” As a result, many female healthcare professionals are forced to interact with the virus on a daily basis without proper PPE. This is likely the reason that, according to the CDC (as reported by Kaiser Health News), 73% of healthcare workers infected with coronavirus are women.

In an article for The Atlantic, Helen Lewis discusses another burden that women are disproportionately shouldering during the pandemic: childcare. Lewis writes that the pressure to become a new and improved version of yourself while stuck at home during the pandemic is unrealistic for the people caring for children. And, overwhelmingly, those people are women. Lewis also points out that as an economic recession seems more and more inevitable, childcare professionals become less and less likely to find paid work. “school closures and household isolation,” she writes, “are moving the work of caring for children from the paid economy—nurseries, schools, babysitters—to the unpaid one.” 

Not surprisingly, in families where both partners work remotely, unequal patterns around childcare and managing the household have become more pronounced. In April of 2020 scientists decided to study these conditions. They found that just as women had carried the majority of the childcare burden before the onset of the pandemic, it has become even more unequal since. Adding homeschooling to the already long list of tasks necessary to care for children and maintain a home exacerbates this burden. In addition, the “mental load” is carried by the female parent almost exclusively and includes providing emotional support, distractions and stimulation for children, as well as meal planning, organizing social connections, and all of the myriad mental tasks that are part of parenting. Women have always been the default go-to parents, and although more male parents may be working from home, that default status has only become more pronounced.

The world has always been a place where those with less political and financial capital have been forced, out of economic necessity, to take on jobs others do not want, whether because they are dangerous, distasteful, low-paying, or all of these. During the current pandemic, many women and minorities are working outside of the home and at jobs that are, while “essential,” not highly paid or rich in benefits and in which they cannot obtain adequate personal protection to keep them from getting sick. Meanwhile, women who are working from their homes are finding themselves juggling their professional obligations with the mental load of organizing, planning and caring for the family, and even providing home schooling. Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate gender and racial inequalities, despite the fact that women and people of color are doing the majority of the work to serve communities on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Posted on Leave a comment

Oh, The Irony

By: Flora Oliveira

“My body my choice,” a statement institutionally oppressed women use when fighting for their bodily autonomy, has recently been engulfed into the bigoted riots against the shelter in place orders. Twitter has wonderfully given name to the delinquent white women at the forefront of this idiotic engulfment of ‘my body my choice.” The names for these white supremacist troglodytes range from Karens to Susans to Beckys. The KKKarens all over the US have unironically displayed why the phrase “my body, my choice” is important in the times of COVID. Those most vulnerable to the disease have not only seriously questioned the state of mind of the KKKarens but have also been very vocal that the “my body, my choice” movement applies to not wanting to be viciously infected with COVID. Especially not when it’s due to another person’s delusional interpretation of systematic oppression. 

Even before COVID KKKarens compromised the health of Black and Brown people through gentrification, racial profiling, and who can forget their role in colonialism? So what do we do now? We surely cannot let these women run around invading stores without masks, rioting in big groups, or collaborating with anti-vaxxers right? But the truth is, the only time the state steps in is when the advocates are Black, Brown, or of the working class. 

So why do they understand the use of “my body, my choice” only when it’s convenient? Aside from being the most skilled of appropriators, white women do not acknowledge their privilege. Acknowledgment of privilege could be the solution to saving generations of minorities. Privilege is like superglue, no one wants to be caught with it plastered all over their bodies, but once it’s on, you can’t ever get it off. Just to be extra clear, in this case, the superglue is you blinding whiteness, you don’t want it, but we’d love to see you try to rip it off. 

 The fault is not all that of white women, though. America’s systems were created directly through the use of white supremacy. Moving from a country and colonizing other humans is not excusable because God came to you in a wet dream. Do not get me wrong here, God isn’t the problem, it’s your idealization that God has specifically given you, and ancestors a free pass to murder indigenous, Black, and Brown people. And also the way yall used missions to trap, murder, and subdue minorities too. 

Through centuries of continued violence, Asians, Black folk, Latinx communities, and now Hispanics have all been at the forefront of violence and entrapment. Who hasn’t? The answer: white people. Once again, the reason for that goes back to colonization. Your far removed ancestors are not deities, they are not Wiccan goddesses, they are not souls of those once oppressed. Your American ancestors were either Konfederates, in the KKK, or like you, are still, directly complicit in white supremacy. This is why you’ve continuously been granted a free pass, even when your meaningless, and outright delinquent filled riots against the shelter in place piss everyone off. 

You don’t get shot down while running in your neighborhood (Ahmaud Arbery), you don’t get framed, manipulated, or imprisoned for a rape you didn’t commit when you were 14-15 (Kevin Richardson, 14, Raymond Santana, 14, Antron McCray, 15, Yusef Salaam, 15, and 16-year-old Korey Wise), you don’t face capital punishment for smoking pot (literally any Black person ever), you don’t get “accidentally” murdered by police or SWAT while you sleep in your own home (Aiyana Jones and Breonna Taylor). You don’t get killed for being trans while Black  (Tony McDaid). You don’t get killed for a “counterfeit” 20 dollar bill (George Floyd). You don’t suffer at the hands of ICE or racist doctors.

 You, as a white privileged person, don’t suffer for just being a minority. That whiteness grants you the privilege to not suffer when you approach police armed with an automatic weapon all in the name of protesting shelter in place. That whiteness grants you tear gas-free, brutality free, and most of all, a murder free time when expressing your 1st amendment right. 

Go ahead, continue “enhancing” your natural beauty by filling your lips, ass, and hips, placing in weaves, spreading that thick layer of melatonin imitating spray, and using AAVE but at the end of the night remember who can take it all off and who can’t. Now to close with the wise words of Angela Davis: To all you white “freedom fighters”, “in a racist society, it is not enough to be nonracist, we must be anti-racist.”

Posted on Leave a comment

Family and Fear v.s. Peace and Love

By: Atmanah Parab

I’ve had to reacquaint myself with many aspects of living at home since quarantine started. Whether it be abiding by my parent’s mandatory household vegetarian days or my sister stealing my fancy moisturizer.  Bhajans played at frankly inconsiderate volumes that wake me up before my 10:30am alarm. The smell of dinner, pervasive and yet somehow welcome at the same time. All small changes I’ve reincorporated into my daily routine.   

One heavier thing I’ve had to get used to are the twice-a-day calls to Mumbai to check on my grandfather. In 2016, my grandfather had a severe stroke that resulted in paralysis from head to toe of the left side. Since then, the structure of my family’s life has changed to include trips to India whenever financially possible to check on him. A part-time ward boy was appointed to take care of my grandfather’s medical treatment but after the death of my grandmother, the ward boy and his family had to move in full-time to make sure someone was always looking after my grandfather. 

This brings us to the current date. In the time of COVID-19, movement is limited and fear is unending. For the first few days of quarantine, I spent my days in a bubble. I was annoyed and bored as only those privileged enough to be complacent can be. My immediate family was safely at home and non-immunocompromised, as long as we stayed inside, this crisis would blow over soon.

This facade of peace was shattered by the realization that while coronavirus was spreading rapidly in the United States, it was also spreading in Mumbai, where the rest of my family is. 

I see a field of matches and fire, unencumbered, engulfing them all in the blink of an eye. In my fearful mind’s eye, Mumbai feels like this grid of matches. The first thing to understand is that Mumbai is not a city of easily recognized structure. It is a civilization built into the sea and reaching for the sky to hold its bustling population. Pavement dwellings built from a hodgepodge of materials with hammered tin roofs are often a two-minute distance from brick and mortar buildings oozing from the humidity, and those yet, are ten minutes from sleek high-rises with balconies to clap from. That is, if you’re not counting the worst traffic you could imagine. One thing is evident in this organized chaos, Mumbai is a city of its many, many people. It is incredibly common for multiple generations of a family to live in one house, after all that is the way my family has lived for decades back. In an area like this, social distancing poses a glaringly obvious challenge. 

The second thing to understand is that in some eyes, my father has failed in his most important duty. As the only son of a relatively traditional Indian family, it is a part of his duty to take care of his parents in their old age. The roles he plays and how they conflict are only thrown into sharper relief with financial pressure to perform at his highest capacity, make sure his daughters and wife are safe and to make sure that his father is being cared for, over the phone with no way of physically going over there. All he can do is make sure to check in as much as possible and take care of his father through the phone. Some calls are sadder than others, there are days where even the smallest movements normally possible through physical therapy are simply too much for my grandfather. On other days he can’t seem to remember any of us. On the worst days, he’s unwell and fragile and the distance between California and Mumbai seems too far to help. 

Kishore is the name of the ward boy who takes care of my grandfather. Him and his family now live in the same flat that my grandparents had inhabited for the past 20 years. In the words of my mother “it was God’s grace and our good karma that we found him”. In the past few months, their stay in our family flat has brought a new wave of excitement: Kishore’s wife recently gave birth to a baby boy. In the midst of one of the most widespread public health crises and in a house that was previously a makeshift hospital room, new life was breathed in. It was in sleepless nights and coordinating with doctors to make sure that she received the best care that the news impacted my household here in the states, but in the days since the birth, my parents have added cooing at the baby sleeping soundly into their daily routine. A bracing reminder that no matter what, life will go on and family and love can still bring joy. That we as human beings can still be here for each other and fight for each other from a distance. 

The coronavirus is a physical threat, with many psychological side effects: fear, anxiety and guilt. At this time, the only real certainty is uncertainty and it’s hard to find silver linings when the world feels as if it’s been thrown into chaos, but despite whatever has happened and whatever will happen, humanity has the capability to look out for each other and to love. So the next time my father Facetimes India and I get to see my grandfather’s face, more delicate and sallow than I’ve ever seen it in real life, I’ll remember that it is our luck and love that keeps him alive. Though he will be struggling to remember me and wave at the phone, it’s another day that he’s safe and for now that will have to be peace. 

Posted on Leave a comment

COVID-19’s Overlooked Effects: Domestic Violence

By: Samah Atique

The coronavirus has now reached a staggering death toll of 501,898, a number that continues to rapidly increase — so rapidly that the stats will probably change by the time you’re done reading this article. Besides the numerous lives it has already taken, the pandemic has begun to shed light on a number of unforeseen circumstances that have surfaced since the shelter-in-place mandates. For example, it has brought attention to the discrepancies in workplace supports, such as paid leaves, the scarcity of affordable childcare options, and the underfunding of reproductive health services to name just a few. More so, it has led to an increase in cases of domestic violence, all while making it that much more difficult for survivors of abuse to obtain help. Although these issues are of high salience, governments around the world are struggling to scrapple the resources necessary to help combat them, specifically when it comes to addressing pressing reports of domestic violence.

Financial instability, economic uncertainty, and social isolation are all consequences of the current pandemic. Unfortunately, they are also common triggers of abuse. According to Wan Fei, founder of an anti-domestic violence nonprofit in Hubei, China, reports of violence in the province have more than tripled since the start of the pandemic in the month of February alone. This holds similar to the situations in several other countries around the world, from Brazil, to Argentina, Germany, Italy, South Africa, France, the United States, and more, all of which have experienced massive surges in cases over the past few months. And these statistics only consider the cases that have been reported. 

To make matters worse, resources to help people facing abuse have been depleting. Many organizations founded to combat the issue have lost funding and places of refuge for survivors have been turned into homeless shelters by officials. This is due to the “all hands on deck” approach many governments and authorities are taking to combat the coronavirus, which includes redirecting resources from nonprofits and clinic services towards fighting the virus. As a result, the already weak and underfunded institutions that are meant to protect women from domestic abuse are further struggling to address the heightened demand. Furthermore, with strict shelter-in-place mandates in place, it has become much more difficult for survivors to leave their houses and obtain help, leaving them trapped at home with their abusers.     

However, several countries have taken steps to help survivors during the quarantine. Canada has decided to reallocate $50 million in funding towards sexual assault centers and women’s shelters, while France is allowing survivors to temporarily be housed in vacant hotel rooms free of cost. Furthermore, through the Spotlight Initiative, the United Nations is actively striving to eliminate domestic violence in the EU through funding and services meant to protect at-risk communities. However, the demands for long-term responses regarding social, economic, and psychological support still need to be taken into consideration to effectively help survivors in the long run.

Ultimately, at a time when people are being fined and arrested for not wearing masks in public, the excuse that there is a lack of resources to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable and properly provide support for survivors is purely baseless. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is working to ensure that their resources and helplines are available 24/7, despite the pandemic’s impact. The number to their hotline, as well as other important resources for those affected by abuse and in need of support are listed below.  

Furthermore, if you would like to donate to help take action for survivors amid the lockdown, you can do so here: https://www.thehotline.org/covid-19-responses/ 

National Domestic Violence Hotline 

Call 1-800-799-7233 

OR text LOVEIS to 22522 

For more information or guidance on resources, please visit: https://www.thehotline.org/