Ask yourself, is this really for me?

Artwork by Sandrine Demathieu from Amplifer Art. Colorful boxes with people flexing their left arms w/ bandaids showing they are vaccinated against COVID19. Different languages with the words Vaccines are Safe.

If you don’t have a lot of time or don’t want to read, just read the title and you’ll get the whole point of the blog post. White people, and people with economic and other privileges, ask yourself “Is this really meant for me?” When deciding to participate in programs designed for POC communities. Sometimes the answer is no even if it isn’t explicitly stated, and sometimes it is yes but do so with care.

This blog post will hopefully be short and to the point, but first a story…

The pediatric COVID vaccine for children 5-11 years old was recently approved for emergency use — Hooray. For many parents/caregivers, this is a welcome relief.

When the adult vaccine came out in late 2020 – early 2021 there isn’t enough supply to meet the demand. This time the government also made a general release of the vaccine – a free for all. During the adult vaccine release government agencies prioritized who would be vaccinated first – medical providers, elders, parents of children with disabilities, etc.

During the adult COVID vaccine rollout, many POC organizations protected the links to schedule COVID appointments. We knew once the links were leaked POC communities would lose out. The appointments would be snatched up by white people and people with privilege. We guarded those appointment links. We texted friends and aunties to check-in and ask if they had gotten their vaccine, if they hadn’t we’d help them sign-up. We may have passed the vaccine clinic info to others but with strict instructions not to post it to social media, if they did they risked being unfriended or at the least not trusted with valuable information again. These are the lengths we had to go through to protect our resources and give our communities a fighting chance to what was rightfully theirs – a fair chance to get vaccinated and not wait until the end. Imagine how much energy we could have redirected if we didn’t have to go through such hoops.

Fast forward to the pediatric COVID vaccine release. There is no prioritization of who should get the pediatric vaccine first – it is a free-for-all and currently, there is a limited supply. Put those two things together and we can see privilege play out in so many ways. For another time we can ask why ourselves why government allowed this to happen.

In one parent Facebook group the phone number for a local POC health clinic was shared. Parents reported waiting for 45-min to 2-hrs on hold to make a COVID pediatric vaccine appointment. Yet these same parents had no idea what the organization does or who it serves. As another friend quietly lamented, “They can spend 2 hours on hold, but not use any of that time to Google?” The parents taking spots at that clinic displaced the clinic’s patients. I heard from one POC immigrant friend who gave up trying to get a vaccine spot there. Another parent pointed out a lot of the families probably couldn’t spend 2-hrs on hold because they don’t have enough pay-as-you-go cellphone minutes, phone privilege is real. This is how privilege shows up. It also meant white bodies are moving through a traditionally POC space — something for white people to think about.

Moral of the Story

If an organization doesn’t sound familiar to you or is embedded in a POC community, pause and ask “Is this really for me?” There is probably a reason you hadn’t heard of the organization before. Is it meant to serve you and your family or are you taking a resource from someone who needs it more?

This isn’t just about COVID vaccines. Those of us with privilege need to constantly be asking ourselves if we are taking from someone else who needs a resource more. A few weeks ago, I was thinking through why I procrastinate signing up for certain kid programs. I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment when I realized I’ve trained myself to not be first in line, to pause and make sure we’re not taking a spot from someone else who is in their target demographic. I don’t want to take a spot that was really designed for another student, my kids will be alright.

Back to the moral. Do some research, pause and ask is it really meant for you or are you taking from someone else. There are times it is ok to sign up and take a resource, other times maybe we should step back and let others go first. At the very least if you do some research you’ll probably learn about a great new organization.

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I am writing from the lands of the 29 federally recognized and non-federally recognized tribes in now Washington State, including the Coast Salish people — Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Suquamish, Snoqualmie, and Native American organizations that have treaty rights and have been here since time immemorial. I give my thanks to the elders, Native and Indigenous colleagues and relations, and the land itself. Fakequity pays “rent” to Native organizations in Washington and Hawaii; a small act to repair and work to be in more justice based relations.