The Privilege of Quarantine
There is one discomfort I sit with during quarantine that I keep coming back to over and over again: the great privilege I have in this life, many of which are unearned. I was aware of many of my privileges prior to quarantining, but this time has laid bare all of the instances and circumstances that I benefit from that others do not during this pandemic. First and foremost, is the privilege that I get to quarantine myself and my family. I have a job that I can do from home. I don’t have to go out into the world and expose myself, and as a result, my family to the virus. I’m still guaranteed an income and my daily life hasn’t changed all that much. I have reasonable assurances that I’ll still be employed if this crisis should continue for several weeks or months while millions of people have already lost their jobs.
My privilege extends beyond job security. I'm also safe and healthy. I don’t have a chronic illness or disability that requires me to see a doctor regularly and put myself at risk. I have a home to quarantine in, many do not. I have financial security at a time when many do not. I have the privilege of paying others to go out in the world and potentially expose themselves to the virus so that I don’t have to expose myself or my family. I have the privilege of being white, which means I am less likely to die from the virus according to recent statistics. I also am safe in my home. One of the greatest threats to families in extended quarantine is domestic violence. As stress builds due to loss of income and fear for our health, already violent homes become more violent, leaving many women and children at risk. Imagine being trapped in a home that isn't safe on a good day and now the added stresses of life burdened with the affects of the coronavirus. It feels as though we are becoming a collective pressure cooker about to explode.
The virus is exposing in vivid detail all of the systems of oppression in our culture which are affecting the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the people of color and every other marginalized community more than those with the privileges that our country likes to bestow on certain groups of people to maintain power. If we ask ourselves, “who gets to quarantine?” we’ll see those people that hold privilege in this society. I hope more than anything else, this time in our history will act to awaken those with power and privilege to the immorality of the systems we’ve created and uphold everyday.
For too many people, this time is rife with danger and unimaginable choices. Life isn’t fair, we all know this, but it doesn’t have to be nearly as unfair as we’ve made it. Now more than ever, we need to act to end the systems that keep people oppressed, and benefit select groups of people. I hope this time is a call to our greatest human instincts to serve and protect each other, not out of fear, but out of love. Lately I’ve been hearing the rallying cry that we are “all in this together,” but we really aren’t. There are people that bear the burdens and risks of the coronavirus at far higher rates than others. We need to recognize that and correct it. That is the very least we as human beings should do and I hope that we can use this crisis as a catalyst to make the needed reforms to ensure we all are cared for because we are human beings, not because of our concern over our personal social status, wealth and welfare over that of others.
I'm using my discomfort with the unearned privileges I have to work for change and to reimagine what our country could be if we put people ahead of money, greed and power. That's the world I've always want to live in and I hope more people will have that vision as well so we can realize this dream post-coronavirus.