Social Solidarity: Embracing Equity During Times of Coronavirus Uncertainty

Daisy Han
6 min readMar 16, 2020

The work of truly embracing equity requires us to slow down in the midst of a crisis and carefully reflect and act in the interest of justice. With the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the incredible speed at which things are changing around us, it is all too easy to panic and get swept up in hysteria, viewing each other with suspicion and fear. Personally, as an Asian-American, I have noticed the sweeping circles people walk around me as they avoid me in public, or the multiple nervous glances as I walk in the door. Since the virus was first detected in China in December 2019, people who look Asian American or Pacific Islander (AAPI) have been subjected to racist comments and jokes online and in person.

Historical Context Matters

Public health events, just as all things, have always been racialized because we live in a racist society. When pandemics originate in areas populated by mostly People of Color, such as COVID-19 in China or Ebola in West Africa, the people in those countries are viewed as threats and as innately diseased. Members of the AAPI community are being targeted now in an ongoing history of Anti-Chinese sentiment related to infectious diseases in the United States:

  • In 1881, California legislators passed political code 1662 noting “infectious diseases” and the need to “establish separate schools for children of Mongolian or Chinese descent. When such separate schools are established, Chinese or Mongolian children must not be admitted into any other schools” (The Center for Racial Justice Innovation).
  • Additionally, in efforts to bar Chinese workers from entering the country in the late 1800s, White labor unions argued that Chinese people carried diseases that were more virulent than those found in White people (Dillard, Coshandra, Speaking Up Against Racism Around the New Coronavirus).

Getting informed on this legacy of racism is critical to understanding how history so easily repeats itself. All of us have a responsibility to interrupt any anti-AAPI and xenophobic sentiments, and educate people on the deep rooted history of such false narratives. While the outbreak started in Wuhan, its global spread has reached far beyond China, making it impossible and illogical to attribute the virus to somebody on the basis of their racial identity. Prepare now for how you will respond to any racist or xenophobic language, and as always, feel free to ask us.

The legacy of racialized harm is woven into the fabric of the United States. As COVID-19 spreads across the country, it brings with it the legacy of racist biological warfare and disease proliferation that were defining characteristics of settler colonialism. When diseases were weaponized by European settlers against Indigenous communities, the fact that thousands of Indigenous peoples fell victim to disease was used to further justify White Supremacy through a narrative of biological inferiority. Today, this means that the combined effects of institutional racism, poverty, and historical trauma all lead to a disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities. Even seemingly simple advice such as “wash your hands” avoids the reality that for many, clean water is not readily accessible.

Community Care in Action

When considering the intersectionality of identities impacted by White Supremacy, the heaviest burdens often fall on those who are most marginalized. A global pandemic like COVID-19 highlights the growing social inequalities we have in the United States. The New York Times reported on those who are most at risk for being exposed to COVID-19, which illustrates the high risk of the most marginalized workers — hourly and part-time employees, employees who may or may not have health insurance or paid leave, including personal health care workers, home care workers, elementary and kindergarten teachers, childcare workers, cab drivers, and retail and fast food workers.

Our country’s lack of policies that support these groups of people can result in greater exposure for those who are already experiencing systemic inequality. For example, wage stagnation has hit People of Color and women more than White men.

Kindred Psychology released a poignant and important statement: “Let’s reframe social distancing and call it the physical distancing and social solidarity movement. We need each other.

For those of us who have the privilege to opt out (maybe you are able to maintain a salary and work remotely), now is the time to make your voice heard about the need for policies and practices that align our hope for a just and equal society with today’s reality. Those of us who hold privilege in a variety of ways have a responsibility to support our community. Here are a few ideas:

  • If you are able to do so, follow recommendations for staying at home to slow down the spread and save lives. Many of us may not feel the urgency to self-isolate if we are young and able-bodied. Community care means looking beyond ourselves and taking precautions for the protection of our elders, the immunocompromised, and disabled folx.
  • Donate excess food to food banks. Do not purchase more than you need, unless it is with the intention to share it.
  • Reach out to your local Indigenous communities and ask what is needed and how you can redistribute your resources.
  • Offer to drive neighbors who are elders or who are in other vulnerable populations to appointments. Offer to pick up prescriptions, or to go grocery shopping for them.
  • Review your employer’s policies and ask questions about how your employer is supporting your entire workforce.
  • Disrupt racist rhetoric as you see it by critiquing narratives that rely on xenophobic messages.
  • Check in with each other. Send messages, plan video calls, and cultivate connections. Disconnection can especially impact those of us navigating the world with anxiety and depression.
  • Begin creating a neighborhood pod to pool and share resources.
  • If you have time at home, research different resources available in your specific community, and create a list that can be shared and added to by others.

Stay Connected & Join Our Online Cohorts

Social solidarity during this time requires everyone to remain emotionally proximate and deeply connected to one another. Keep checking in on our blog and our social media for continued conversations we will have and the evolving strategies we are using to get through this together.

Additionally, we have the following ongoing Embracing Equity online cohorts available as spaces to join and stay engaged even from a distance:

As always, but particularly now given the additional financial stress many of us are experiencing with cancellations and closures, please know we have intentionally fundraised to allow for a flexible sliding scale depending on your ability to pay. We work hard to prioritize embracing equity in our internal operations and hope you will find this funding helpful should you need it.

Additional Resources

We are in this together for the safety and wellness of us all. Now, more than ever, let’s come together around our values for equity and justice and take a stand as a community in this time of great uncertainty.

In solidarity,