April 2, 2020

Privilege Within the Pandemic

Dr. Tyffani Dent, OAESV Member and Former Board Member

Privilege is real. On a daily basis as a Black woman who exists at the intersection of two oppressions, I also try to remain cognizant of the privileged spaces that I inhabit. I am cisgendered, married in a heterosexual union, college-educated, able-bodied, and more Judeo-Christian than anything. I also occupy the place of “brown-skinned” Black in a world that continues to endorse colorism and would pass the Brown Paper Bag Test. Within the privileges where I reside, the current COVID-19 continues to shine a light on how such privileged positions continue to denigrate and further marginalize those who are not.

During this time of Stay-At-Home, there is also privilege within that construct. Some within my middle-to-upper middle class group seem to not fully acknowledge the privilege of being such in a world that continues to make life easier for them---even in the midst of a pandemic.

Being middle to upper-middle class, one is more likely to have access to personal transportation that permits him/her to better engage in social distancing because there is not the inconvenience of public transportation in which to get to the “essential places” like work, doctor’s appointments, and grocery stores. Within the privilege of suburban living, the rolling of the eyes at those gathering in parks occur---while at the same time these same suburbanites have the access to fresh air in sparsely-populated open spaces versus concentrated set-asides to which those in urban centers rely.

Being “bored at home” while being permitted to still earn income because “telework” is available is something that those within “essential” industries (that we do not value at any other time, such as food service and nursing home care---as denoted in how much they are NOT paid), is a privilege. There is privilege in being able to lament balancing telework with homeschooling---when there are those who are deemed “essential” struggling to figure out where their children will go when daycares are closed (because no one is saying they are going to be spaces for the essential food and gas station workers in our focus on those working in hospitals). Yet, people will tsk tsk when those same workers are forced into developing childcare plans that have them “taking care” of each other’s children while the other person works.

There is privilege in not living in a food dessert---as we complain about items being removed from our Instacart, or Walmart not delivering as quickly as they did before. When one does not have access to grocery delivery (because no one will come into that area), we then chide them for “being at the grocery store so much”, or we post pictures of them buying up large amounts of items---because they know that there is not an option to call for weekly delivery---and yet, they are trying to minimize their movements.

There is economic and location privilege in having restaurants deliver food to you.

None of this is to say that we should not all do our best in this time.

There is no reason for anyone to be spending their Spring Break at the beach.

There is no reason for us to continue to feel as if we should gather at our houses of worship (even though we also have to realize that access to religious worship through livestreaming is a privilege---as everyone does not have unlimited WiFi, smartphones, or computers in their homes).

There is no reason why we need to gather at homes for parties and “just because we are bored”.

We should all try and do social distancing as much as we possibly can, when we can.

In this, we need to recognize that Stay-At-Home looks very different for those who are the most marginalized. During this time, we must begin to question WHY it is so different, and in between our moments of telework, Instacart, walking in our own backyards, worshipping with our favorite ministers via Instagram, and remaining connected with our family/friends via Zoom-----we need to begin to figure out how we fix it.

Dr. Dent is a licensed psychologist. Her hardest job is being a Black Woman who centers the experiences of Black women and girls. Her "day job" is considered essential and she leaves her family in order to do it. She understands that social distancing matters/is crucial---but also acknowledges that there are privileges in how that looks

#COVID19 #Pandemic #StayAtHome #DrTyff #SocialDistancing

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