COVID19 — Signs of Going Back (to normal)

By Carrie Basas with additions from Erin

Artwork from Amplifer, by Rohan Bhatia
The New Normal(Design Fights Covid)
“A reminder so people realise that normal got us here in the first place.”

While we still haven’t cut our own hair, mastered that new coffee drink, or become extroverts, we are seeing those around us look for signs that we will go back soon– to work, date nights, graduations, and shearing of our COVID19 locks. Many people are seeking some reassurance that this state of uncertainty will be over soon. What will be some of the signs of going back? 

When we’ve become uncomfortable with staying home, we will argue that only the vulnerable should stay home– or we will send even more vulnerable people into harm’s way with the argument this period has been too hard or long for those of us who can stay home and keep our jobs.

We will begin to question communities’ concerns that their children were not adequately educated– particularly, students most in opportunity gaps and oppressed by structural racism, ableism, and other injustices. When people ask for more support or make-up learning opportunities, they will be told, “It was hard for everyone. These were difficult times. What do you expect?” Or rather, it will be implied that “those kids” will always be behind. Everyone is returning to school under the same awful circumstances, but we know the pandemic wasn’t an ‘equal’ experience for all.

We will cut public programs and nonprofit resources when they are most needed post-emergency and were before we experienced this situation, such as investments in racial equity, early learning, family engagement programs, special education, and student mental health. These things will be seen as extra. “Core programs” must be supported, even if these programs reify the disparities that existed before COVID19. The irony is before the pandemic, we needed to expand these programs to allow them to serve more of our community’s most vulnerable. Now they will be told they are lucky to maintain funding, when they need expansion funds the most.

Our children will be better at selecting Zoom backgrounds than we are because we are preparing them for the tech-revolution and corporate jobs where they must always excel, especially in a global crisis.

Our teachers will begin to leave the profession, feeling powerless and concerned they are holding spaces and upholding practices that undermine relationships.

Our efforts focused on rebuilding the economy or jumpstarting schools will include familiar voices of those people viewed as reasonable, unemotional experts. They will be centered in whiteness with token nods to people of color and people with disabilities. 

As we pack our bags for the golf course, tennis court, or summer concert series, we will close one eye as we read headlines that fatalities are centered in institutions supporting or confining our elders, disabled community members, prisoners, factory workers, and people who are house-less. They were vulnerable already, right? We put in enough time to show our solidarity, but then it got old and we resent it. The curve is flattening and the risk is now manageable, especially if we tell others to wear masks and stay out of our way.

The announcements of the liberation will be in English and online. Tell your neighbors or don’t– somehow, others will figure it out — if they stay at home it is safer for you since fewer people will be out. In the meantime, we’ll continue to use social media to rant about how others aren’t complying with social distancing or public health guidance.

But, you’re saying by now, “Wait, you haven’t given me signs of my liberation!” Yes, what we’ve given you are signs of going back– going back to the ways we’ve always done things. Many of us have been looking for signs that this crisis could be prompt to revisit the injustices that already exist– they would be in such relief that no one could deny them. Yet, as days pass, we wonder if it is even possible. From education to health announcements, we’ve continued to focus on the majority. If you are looking for signs of when we are going back, you’ve got them. Just wait for more signs or commit to using your power to refuse the “normal” that hasn’t worked for so many of us. Ask how far we’ve come, if at all, and how much time we have left to see progress.

Is this the “liberation” we want? This isn’t the justice many people of color and disabled people want. Going back to ‘normal’ shouldn’t be the desired response. 

Guest blogger Carrie Basas works in education advocacy and formerly in civil rights law, specializing in disability rights. During her time as a law professor, she focused on issues of racial discrimination, ableism, health justice, and workers’ rights. Carrie has a MEd in Education Policy, Organizations, and Leadership from the University of Washington. She earned a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School and an Honors B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology/Anthropology from Swarthmore College. However, her recent claim to fame and self-help is attempting to cover graying hair with pink dye.  Like her pet bunnies, all opinions are her own to take care of and sustain.

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