Stop Saying We Are Experiencing the Same Pandemic

By Wayne Carino

It is no secret that many people and recent college graduates are laid off and desperately searching for a job due to COVID-19. What many people don’t understand is that the pandemic experience differs across socio-economic groups. 

Many may be relaxing at home leisurely applying for jobs at the comfort of their own individual room. Many may have supportive parents. Many may have a safe space moving back home from college or getting laid off. 

However, this is not true for everyone. Queer people returning home either from college or from being laid off may not be coming back to a safe space to express themselves. Multi-racial people may experience racism or colorism from either side of their family. Multi-generational households leaves little personal space to build skills and apply for jobs while unemployed. Low-income families will experience tensions between family members due to their financial situation being exacerbated by COVID-19. 

Racial and social identities intersect creating unique hardship for minorities, and these experiences are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Additionally, in face of a modern-day civil rights movement, performative allyship on Black lives makes it harder for Black communities to manage their mental health and physical well-being during this public health and unemployment crisis. 

The response to these inequities and injustices? We see organizations publishing statements on their DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) policies and values. We see organizations changing their social profile picture to show their allyship during Pride Month. We see organizations saying they will do better without being proactive about it.

How many Black staff are on your organization’s executive team? How many queer identifying staff are at your organization? How are you actively recruiting indigenous and multi-racial talent? Organizations need to be proactive on DEI and how they empower BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and LGTBQ+ communities.

The emotional burden of minorities and the Black community to constantly explain their trauma is already enough. But to experience a global health pandemic, mass unemployment, and racism altogether creates and reinforces the inequities we face in applying for jobs, staying healthy, and staying safe. 

Racial justice and equity is not a trend, but rather it is something we have to be proactive about. Being proactive varies from person to person, but people should reflect on their position of privilege either from a career standpoint or social lens to see where they can make the most impact.

  • Human Resources and Recruiters:
    • How are you breaking down your organization’s recruiting process to eliminate bias and stereotypes? What direct pipelines are in place to ensure equitable employment of BIPOC and LGTBQ+ people? How are you creating or contributing towards an organizational culture that values DEI principles? 
  • Mid and High Point Career Professionals:
    • How are you contributing in the workplace that allows accountability to be held? What type of approach are you taking (i.e., top-down, bottom-up, mixed) to ensure that diverse voices are supported? Are you stepping back from opportunities that are more appropriate for other candidates of color?
  • LGTBQ+ Allies:
    • Many queer people may feel uncomfortable expressing their home situation or anxious searching for resources. If you have a friend that identifies as someone in the LGBTQ+ community, ask them, “Are you in a safe space during this pandemic?” 
  • Family and Friends: 
    • What conversations are you having with family and friends to help them better understand Black Lives Matter, racism, and the disproportionate experience of the pandemic? 

This pandemic shows that because of the United States’ history and accumulation of discriminatory policies, people have to read between the lines to see the inequities that are still being produced by society. By reflecting and taking action on our position of privilege as well as staying informed, donating, and volunteering, we can begin to remedy the injustices this pandemic has exploited.

Wayne Carino (he/him/his) is a recent MPA graduate from the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He is currently a board member at Ecologists Without Borders (EcoWB) and is passionate about the intersections of environmental sustainability, urban development, and marginalized communities. The views expressed herein belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ecologists Without Borders.

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