Weeks ago as this new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was reaching the U.S. and people were becoming ill with COVID-19, my neighbors and I started planning. We shared a vision that the only way to get through this crisis was to connect and take care of each other.
On our block, we first went door to door to identify the most vulnerable: people with disabilities, elders and people with compromised immune systems. We then began figuring out how to buy groceries for those who can’t get to the store and how to take others to appointments. Now that many of our schools have closed, we are exploring how to form childcare co-ops. This is how families and communities care for each other in a crisis.
Unfortunately, as we know, collective care is not a prevailing strategy in our country. Those who wish to see our families continue to struggle and suffer are using this moment to push their agendas. The Right has tried to use the stimulus to enrich corporations, and states are classifying abortion as “non-essential,” which forces people to stay pregnant or to travel further for the healthcare they need. The administration has halted Environmental Protection Agency safeguards, and white supremacists see this as a prime moment for organizing. Our API communities are facing increased racist attacks.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
This crisis is an opportunity to build upon the solutions and policies that our communities have long fought for. We’ve long seen the need and fought for access to paid sick leave for all families. Now everyone understands that paid leave is essential to slowing the spread of the virus. People with disabilities and pregnant people have long fought for accommodations that would allow them to work from home, yet they have been denied. Now, thousands of employers across the nation have implemented the infrastructure to work from home nearly overnight. We know that access to abortion and a full range of reproductive healthcare is critical and should be seen as essential healthcare and a human right during these times. And we’ve long known that workers are the backbone of our economy, the people — now deemed essential — who are risking their own health to care for the nation through this crisis. Because workers take these risks, we fight for them to have living wages. This pandemic is showing us that what we know our families and communities need isn’t radical or some impossible dream. What we need is possible. In fact, it’s essential to build a nation strong enough to withstand whatever challenges come our way.
Movement leaders and elected officials across the nation are already taking steps to help shape the future and help our communities weather this storm. Workers are striking for better health and safety protections at Amazon, Whole Foods and Instacart. GM workers walked off the job to demand that their employer begin manufacturing much-needed ventilators. A group of homeless and housing-insecure people calling themselves the Reclaimers took possession of eleven vacant houses in Los Angeles. Abortion providers have filed litigation in four states to protect access to essential abortion care. New York State has halted collections on medical and student loan debt. United States Attorney General William Barr recently recommended the release of at-risk inmates to home confinement for the remainder of their sentences.
We also want to especially acknowledge the discrimination and attacks that API communities are facing during this pandemic, as racists scapegoat them for the spread of the virus. That’s why we worked with Bay Area artist and organizer Kayan Cheung-Miaw to create an image that confronts anti-Asian racism and expresses solidarity with API communities. We worked with APEN (Asian Pacific Environmental Network) to translate and share the art and to raise emergency response funds for working-class Asian immigrant and refugee families. Please share this art widely to show solidarity with API communities and to spread the message that we will only get through this by coming together and supporting each other.
We know from history that a global crisis like COVID-19 can lead to those in power pushing for even more restrictive and regressive policies that create greater inequities and harm within our communities. We won’t let that stop us from joining together to envision and fight for a better world. There are a lot of unknowns we are facing, but the one thing that we do know is that caring about and for each other is how we will get to the other side. This is true for our neighbors, and it is true for our country.
Because of this pandemic, our future will be different. We have a role in shaping that future. Together, we can push for a new world where all of our families can thrive and continue to fight back against oppressive systems and practices. Forward Together promises to continue to be in this fight with you.