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COVID-19: the CS community reflects

Today marks the second week of protests against police violence against Black Americans and almost month three of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we provide updates on our COVID-19 life, it is impossible to escape seeing the connections between the current state of structural racism in the United States. COVID-19 has led to difficult times for everyone, but these times have been much more difficult for Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. Recognizing and acknowledging that structural racism that has led to those harms is the first step; the second step is taking action.

Laura: One of the things I’ve noticed in Utah especially is how COVID-19 is being weaponized against the Black Lives Matter protesters. Utah is basically open now with the exception of a few things (coffee shops, movie theaters, professional sports). Before the protests began last week, everyone was enthusiastically on board to get back to normal life. Since the protests, however, I’ve seen a wave of social media posts opposing the protests that say things like “I’m a fan of civil liberties and all, but don’t forget we are in a pandemic.” This is not only ridiculous coming from someone who was just excitedly posting about going to graduation parties, but it is also further evidence of the double-standard minoritized peoples are held to.

Further, we know that COVID disproportionately impacted minoritized communities in the United States, whether it is because of structural racism in healthcare or because minoritized communities are expected to continue to serve while middle-class white Americans can stay home. Deciding to care, now, about their risk of infection is disingenuous and shows an immense amount of white privilege.

As for me, my life has largely returned to pre-COVID times in terms of my habits. My thoughts and concerns have been much more consumed with supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and learning how to do that in a way that does not privilege my own voice.

Rose: I’ll be working from home through the end of August at least. But I have started venturing out more. On Tuesday I spent time with a friend and her dogs on her patio, both of us wearing masks. After that I went kayaking with a friend and then we went to dinner at a restaurant and sat on the patio. It was my first time at a restaurant in months. Up in the suburb we were in other than waiters no one seems to be wearing masks out. I went back to the outdoor pool, this time in Indy since they’re open now. But the Marion County Ys were closing early each evening for curfew due to the protests, so I was glad I had early afternoon or morning lane reservations. Saturday out on my long ride I stopped at a gas station on the lake to get fluids, and the clerks weren’t wearing masks, but at a drug store closer in to the city they were and had one-way aisle flow, dots for standing 6 feet apart, and a face screen for the clerks. At the park gate the staff are wearing masks and have a plastic shield. When I go in I generally wear a mask as I do at Starbucks to pick up my pre-order.

There is a race up in the far suburbs next weekend but I’m not sure I’m interested. Not just because it is the first one back and in a place where people seem less serious about the virus, but the distance is short enough that I just think it’s not worth it. I haven’t been to protests and they seem split on wearing masks. There is a march my church is participating in and masks are required, but I’m not sure if I’m ready yet.  That’s a lot of people in one place at one time. I’m growing cautiously optimistic but still cautious.

Ciara: COVID wise, things have relaxed a lot in Barbados. We just have a night time curfew and gyms are still closed and large gatherings are restricted. Thankfully we haven’t had a new case in over a week now. The BLM movement is being watched, and, as far as I know supported by the people in Barbados. I am originally from N.Ireland and have friends in many countries, it has been great to see my social media feed full of support for the movement, from people, me included, who would never have spoken about it before as it is a difficult topic to speak out on being white; for fear of saying the wrong thing. The topic of white privilege is one I unfortunately have a lot of first hand experience with. For the past 5 years I have been living in the Caribbean in islands where the majority of the populations are Black. There is no doubt that white privilege exists here in a different form. It comes from all races, not every single person obviously, but I for sure have had preferential treatment due to the colour of my skin. This goes to show the level of conditioning and ‘brain washing’ that Black people have suffered. Another thing that struck me this week, as I said I’m from N.Ireland. The Catholic Civil rights movement in N.Ireland started in 1967, it was inspired by the Black Civil rights movements in America in the 1960’s. I’m not saying there’s no longer issues in N.Ireland, but it’s come on leaps and bounds. This is in stark contrast to what has happened in America. What progression has been made when it takes the country to come out and protest, during the time of deadly virus with the virtual support of the entire world, for 4 police officers to be held accountable for the horrific murder of George Floyd? I’m sure, like any decent and informed human being reading this we all hope that a positive change can come about from these atrocities which Black people in America have suffered through.

What COVID precautions remain in place in your community? How have you noticed that COVID-19 and the racial justice movement interact and intersect?

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