The Covid-19 pandemic has rendered injustice around the world more visible. Crisis vision clearly distinguishes the powerful from the powerless, exposing the sharp contrast in how systems look after some and look over others.
We’re seeing this in many ways: People working in low-wage, yet essential jobs are at higher risk for exposure to coronavirus. The crisis is disproportionately affecting marginalized communities. Issues such as access to healthcare, internet, education, and employment are rising up in our conversations and consciousness.
The pandemic also offers a silver lining, though: it’s helping the near-sighted among us to look beyond their own circumstances to the struggles of others around the world; it’s helping the far-sighted to attend to their local surroundings.
We asked members of our community— from Ethiopia, to India, to Canada—to describe the daily injustice, along with any glimpses of justice, they’re encountering in their context right now. Here are some responses we received.
I am in Johannesburg, South Africa. My family has been feeding hungry people who come to our gate. People are starving. We’re also cooking for homeless shelters and feeding programs. Many people I know are giving until it hurts, to feed people. –Tanya, South Africa
I have seen both justice and injustice during the crisis. I have noticed a dramatic increase in the desire to support local businesses, neighbors helping people they have never met, churches reallocating money from building projects to helping those who need food.
But I have also seen those who allow fear to prevent them from doing good. Blood banks are experiencing a shortage. Politicians are passing policies that harm vulnerable populations while the media concentrates on COVID. Individuals who would typically offer help or hospitality are unwilling due to the fear of harm to themselves. And social services that are lifelines to those in crisis or experiencing trauma are almost non-existent.
On a personal and professional level I have observed mothers who are birthing without their support people, and be sent home with a fraction of the support they would typically receive. Although I understand the attempt to mitigate spread, I have witnessed birth trauma as a result of these policies. The unfortunate pre-existing hierarchy in the birth space (Doctor, Nurse, Mom, Dad) is exacerbated during COVID, leaving the mother with little perceived control of the situation. –Beth, Canada
I am a program manager at an NGO in Ethiopia, Ellilta Women at Risk (EWAR), which helps women to leave prostitution and find new income sources. Most live in slum areas with many people crowded together and low water access. Moreover, clients are no more coming to them because they are afraid of the pandemic. They’re having a very hard time covering their basic needs such as meals and rent. Women with children are especially suffering. They hoped EWAR would provide relief through our program, but the government restricts big gatherings. As the number of cases is increasing it is risky to restart the program. In response, EWAR provided food and medical support, and social workers call the women once or twice a week to make sure they are ok. This concern touched their hearts and they are so happy for the friendship. -Wudassie, Ethiopia
The pandemic has brought to light the many issues and inequalities embedded in the US healthcare system, particularly in the city of Chicago. Statistics in Chicago are showing that communities of color are six times as likely to die of COVID-19 than their white counterparts. This is the combined effect of lack of access to good care and greater exposure risk in front-facing jobs, with lower socioeconomic status and increased co-morbidities.
According to Dr. David Ansell, author of “The Death Gap” and Public Health Director at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago has the largest rates of communities of color dying with COVID-19 “because it’s still one of the most racist, segregated cities.” Organizations and church-cooperatives are doing their best to bring justice to this inexcusable situation. Providing testing centers all over the city, regardless of neighborhoods, and organizing food drives and delivery services are just a few ways this is taking place. -Meg, Chicago, U.S.
We struggle daily with the many injustices perpetrated against the smallest and the weakest in India. Our small town has a large number of daily wage workers, including people from the lowest castes, the poor, and migrant workers, many of whom work on surrounding farms or as vendors selling tea and instant snacks in town.
When the government announced the lockdown with four-hour notice everyone was stunned. We know at least 4,500 families, many struggling with generational malnutrition, chronic disease, and do not have social security. Over a million migrant workers around the country don’t have good accommodations and can no longer save and send money home to help their families survive.
The landowners around here were worried they couldn’t get their harvest, but the labor was worried about losing their bonus income during the Spring harvest season, which helps them tide over the summer months when there is no work. Now they don’t have income for their daily needs during the lockdown or any savings for the summer months.
What began as a 21 days lockdown has now with three extensions become 67 days enforced lockdown. What makes matters worse is that the Supreme Court of India along with the government of India abdicated its duty in protecting the rights of these the most vulnerable and at-risk people.
We feel so helpless and angry because our fundamental right and human duty to rise and do more has also been taken away. We don’t have permission to leave our towns and villages. Every day we have to pry ourselves from the reports on TV because the burden and pain of forced inaction are too big for us to carry… It does not assuage our soul when we say we are doing what little we can locally.
This colossal injustice is manmade. Corona is surfacing a festering wound in India called generational hunger due to unemployment. This needs to be addressed as an urgent short-term and intentional long-term policy.
On a day to day basis in cities of India, we hear of groups and individuals and also see many on TV daring the fear of being infected by COVID-19 and going out day after day to feed the hungry. It is the people of India who will help awaken the soul of India to wage this war against both hunger and Corona. -Regina and Sudheer, India.
How are you or those around you encountering injustice? How has your vision shifted? Where are you seeing justice in the midst of crisis?
Learn how you can submit your story here.