Living in the Shadow of COVID 3: Getting Back to Work, Because There’s SO Much Work to Do

At some point, most of us will emerge from the “safety” of our government or self-imposed isolation and return to work. We will get in our cars, put on our masks and gloves with our hand sanitizers and reenter the world.

But the reality is the world we are returning to and we, the people returning to this world, are not the same. It and we have changed forever. Our world, our numbers, our families, our spirits are different whether we want to acknowledge it or not – forever changed.

For me, that is what is most disconcerting about our return to work, our reentry to this new normal.

I was never “scared” about the virus. It is. It probably was long before we recognized the first case and although we may find a way to contain it, flatten the curve even vaccinate against it. COVID-19 will forever be a part of our reality.

Yes, it can kill us, but so can the flu, cancer, HIV/AIDS, or getting hit by a truck. All we can do is be cautious, wash our hands, use hand sanitizer, self-isolate, and get tested but like my Granny always said tomorrow is promised to no-one. So, we will do our best to live our best lives.

What I have been apprehensive about are the people who don’t get it and the deep societal wounds this virus has “in effect” ripped the scab off of and the racism that continues to seep from that wound.

I worry about the people who have not felt the loss or had their communities ravaged. The ones who feel they are safe in their enclaves because it’s not visible in their back yard.

The ones who protest the loss of their liberties, their freedom to enjoy the fruits of their privilege and would use these times to deny or diminish my rights.

As I approached the office where I work in the suburbs I noticed one of the businesses nearby had installed flags all around their building and the truck parked out front had two huge flags installed in the truck bed. I felt a knot in my stomach.

They were not confederate flags or anything blatantly racist or homophobic. They were the traditional flag, the stars, and stripes. The flag representing MY country but somehow following recent events this display made me feel very unwelcome.

Don’t get me wrong working at this spot has never felt warm and fuzzy. I am the only Black person, working in an environment that is predominantly white male, and I am openly gay.

I have grown accustomed to having conversations stop when I enter the room, wearing headphones so as not to hear their conservative radio talk shows and having to clarify misguided comments about race and/or sexual orientation.  We all walk around on eggshells.

But seeing those flags made me feel, as a Black Queer Woman, like I was seriously in enemy territory.

Was it the fact that members of my communities were dying in the city while others were concerned about lawn care, boating, or going up north and showing up armed and unmasked in Lansing? That although CDC guidelines for COVID-19 were posted only two of us showed up in masks while the “guys” didn’t feel it was necessary?

Was it hearing others bemoan not being able to find toilet paper and other goods at their local stores while so many Black, Brown, poor and LGBTQ folks live in areas where access to grocery stores is limited if not nonexistent?

Was it the overt and micro-aggressions captured on videos of the Karens and others assaulting/confronting Black and Brown folk seemingly emboldened by the comments of the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

It’s been a battle of politics over science and financial health over community health framed by today’s GOP and too often wrapped in the flag, old glory, the stars, and stripes.

So, having to pass this sea of American flags reminded me this was openly a different world than I had left back in March.

I can recall James Boggs telling us at A Detroit Summer gathering, despite all the atrocities that he believed in the promise of this country.  Over the years I have tried to hold onto his words.

Despite the atrocities, there has been progress that has made my life as an African American, Queer woman better than my ancestors or others like me had had just a generation ago.

Seeing the throngs of Americans march in protest over the murder of George Floyd and other men and women in the Black community gives me hope.

Seeing the recognition that Black Trans Lives Matter also in marches, protests and conversations give me hope.

Having the Supreme Court’s recent 6-3 decision that federal anti-bias law covers LGBTQ workers gives me hope. (Votes by Roberts and Gorsuch had me clutching my pearls!)

As we emerge from the “safety” of our government or self-imposed isolation and return to work, we will have to face this normal where uncomfortable conversations about race ARE going to occur.

The social inequalities laid bare by COVID-19 must not only be addressed but tackled at the individual, municipal, state, and national levels. We have to do better to be better!

I’m not itching for a fight with some Karen, Becky, or good old boy but if you bring it, trust and believe it will be video recorded and I’m putting you on blast!

And if you haven’t done some research and self-education on the racist/homophobic history of this country and its oppression of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, please do not step to me for an explanation of why Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives MUST matter.

But I will be out here in my mask with my hand sanitizer, getting back to work at the job and in my community, to build a society where I can once again feel good about the stars and stripes and this country of mine.

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