Brendan is a young professional who is pursuing a career in advocacy. While much of his advocacy is in ageism, he is also passionate about other forms of discrimination and injustice. In his spare time, he likes to serve his home church, track major snowstorms and hurricanes, closely follow multiple sports, and make lots of puns.
Coronavirus cases are increasing at drastic rates in some states. Some people are alarmed with this rise in coronavirus cases, while other people (including some elected officials) downplay the increase in cases by saying out that there’s more coronavirus testing than before, and that because of more testing, there are more cases.
I’m here to say that there is reason for alarm in some places. But the reason for alarm is not because of the increase in coronavirus cases in many places, but because many places are struggling to adequately handle coronavirus cases so severe that urgent intervention is needed.
In places hard-hit by the coronavirus, the local health care systems get completely overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. In parts of Italy, the health care system got so overwhelmed that doctors had to make heart-wrenching decisions about who to try saving and who to let die. In my hometown of New York, response times for emergency calls surged significantly at the height of the coronavirus, which in turn further endangered individuals already at risk. In Alabama, fellow blogger Kim reported a few weeks ago that hospitals in Montgomery were so overwhelmed that they were needing to start sending patients to Birmingham, which is 90 miles away from Montgomery; this additional wait for treatment also further endangered individuals already at risk. In places like these, the health care systems get so overwhelmed that lives are put at risk or worse—lives are lost. That is reason for alarm.
But, how is one to respond to the alarm? I have five words to say: wear masks and socially distance. People should do those two things, as much as possible. I know people want to give their friends a hug, and I know that the masks can feel hot during the summer, but this is not about you. It’s about others. Namely, it’s about saving others’ lives. It’s about making sure that our emergency responders, nurses, and doctors don’t get overwhelmed. It’s about making sure that the immunocompromised don’t catch the virus and end up seriously ill (or dead) because of irresponsible actions from others. If you don’t want to wear masks and socially distance for yourself, do it for others, because wearing a mask and practicing social distancing are the two best ways to do your part to limit the spread of this pandemic.
Note that I will not have a post next Monday because of the July 4th holiday the previous Saturday.
First of all, I want to apologize to my readers for a late post this evening. I was working a meeting related to where I work, and that meeting ended literally right before I started typing this. Hence, the delay in writing and publishing this post.
I should address the elephant in the room: the title of tonight’s post. I was thinking that I would continue these weekly update posts until we got to about mid-July, which would be a month or so into the reopening process in New York City. I wanted to wait to wind down this series until mid-July because I wanted to see whether the reopening process went safely in the city first. I said all of this in a post about a month ago.
However, a lot has changed in the past month.
Namely, there are now major hotspots emerging in states like Alabama, California, Washington, Florida, and Texas. In contrast, my home state, once the epicenter of the virus, is now one of only four states on track to contain the virus.
This weekly update was created so that readers could get insight into what it was like to be living in a hotspot of this horrid pandemic. However, we are most certainly not a hotspot in New York–in fact, we’re likely one of the safest places to be in right now, from a COVID-19 standpoint. Given how much the situation is under control here, I’ve concluded that these weekly updates have run their course.
This is not to say that the pandemic is over, by any means. Far from it. The end of this series just means that the pandemic is under control enough in my area, at least for the time being, that I didn’t feel it was right to continue these weekly updates. Of course, if the dreaded second wave comes to New York, I would resume my weekly updates. I sincerely hope we don’t have a second wave, though.
Nor should anyone interpret the end of this series as a sign to stop practicing the mask-wearing and the social distancing, even if you live in New York. In fact, this series would be continuing for many weeks to come if not for the fact that so many New Yorkers were on board with wearing their masks and social distancing.
I want to thank all of you, my readers, for being a part of this journey by liking, commenting, and sharing these posts. It has been a wild and at times trying journey, but a journey that I am thankful to have survived in good health, and a journey that I’m glad I documented.
As a son of a professor in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, I have heard tales of all ends of the economic spectrum. It’s a system that has an extraordinarily high percentage of its students in some form of economic struggle—it was reported earlier last year that 49% of students went hungry at some point within that month, while 55% of students lacked a safe place to live during the previous year. Yet, in spite of these extraordinary obstacles that so many students in the CUNY system face, CUNY schools dominate economic mobility lists for colleges.
Systems like CUNY in New York or the University of California (UC) system in California, systems that are engines of economic mobility towards the middle class and even the top 20%, should be supported generously because they lift people out of poverty…and yet they’re not.
I’ve heard this happen in New York. The State of New York, which is supposed to provide the bulk of the money for CUNY funding, has been chronically underfunding CUNY for decades. Under New York’s current governor, Andrew Cuomo (a Democrat), CUNY underfunding has become so bad that colleges like my dad’s have had to make sacrifices such as going without a registrar, cutting class offerings even as the student population grows, raising tuition, and endangering students’ abilities to graduate within four years.
I’ve also read about budget cuts in the University of California (UC) and California State University (Cal State) systems out west. Funding per student in the UC and Cal State systems (systems that are also proven engines of upward economic mobility) have dropped significantly in the past forty years, under both Republican and Democratic governors. And, like in New York, I haven’t heard anything to indicate that the situation is getting any better for public higher education in California.
If anything, the situation is getting worse due to funding cuts during the coronavirus. California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed 10% cuts to the UC and Cal State systems last month, while CUNY is anticipating having to cut thousands of classes and thousands of adjunct and part-time professors.
CUNY, the UC system, and the Cal State system are not the only public university systems being deprived of funding, but these are three notable examples of universities being underfunded in spite of being engines of upward economic mobility. New York and California are not the only places whose leadership has underfunded higher education that promotes economic mobility, but those two states are particularly notable because they have the ability to fully fund or underfund education systems that drive upward economic mobility, which is needed at all times, but even more so during a post-COVID economic recovery.
Underfunding of the CUNYs, UCs, and Cal States of the higher education world must become a prominent economic justice issue. Undermining systems that give students the opportunity to climb out of food and housing stress, and towards a life of economic stability, is economically unjust, not to mention an action that prevents people from seeing the “American Dream” (whatever is left of it) become a reality. It needs to be considered so unjust that it becomes politically dangerous for a politician, Republican or Democrat, to underfund institutions like the ones I’ve mentioned in this piece.
Look at the extent to which the CUNYs, UCs, and Cal States of the world already help people move from food and housing stress and towards the middle and upper class, even with chronic underfunding. It’s truly amazing to think what these institutions, and the students within these institutions, are capable of if they were all funded properly.
If you live in a state that has proposed cuts to higher education, and you’re unsure of whether your legislator is advocating against such cuts, it’s worth giving your state representatives a call.
I hope all of my readers are well today, wherever you all may be.
Last week’s post talked about how we in New York City are in Phase One of reopening. As I’m typing this, we’re on the verge of entering Phase Two, which is expected to start next Monday. It came as a bit of a surprise to me, as I had expected to maybe wait until July to get to this phase.
What does this mean? In short, a lot of places will be able to reopen, including many offices, more retail, vehicle sales, and much more. For details on what Phase Two in New York State involves, you can learn about that here.
The reopening process is by no means over (there are four phases, and we’re about to enter Phase Two here), but we have come a long way. We used to have hundreds of deaths a day in New York City alone from the coronavirus, but yesterday, we had 20 new confirmed deaths. Furthermore, our hospitals are nowhere near capacity like they were at the beginning of the pandemic. We are by no means in a perfect place, especially economically, but health-wise, we’re in a much better place than we were a couple of months ago.
And how is that? How has New York seemingly succeeded in curbing the spread of the virus while some other states have failed? While I still strongly believe that we waited too long to act in New York, we also ended up acting aggressively and in-line with the recommendations from public health experts, especially in terms of strongly urging people to wear masks and socially distance. Furthermore, as we are reopening, it’s being made clear that it is not a return to the old normal, but instead a new normal where we socially distance and wear masks; therefore, I don’t think New York State has thus far experienced the spike in cases that many states have experienced as they reopened.
How is COVID-19 in your part of the United States, or your part of the world (if you’re not in the U.S.)? I’m more than happy to hear updates from my readers.
If you spend enough time reading social justice-themed content, you will have probably come across the word privilege a ton. You may have read about white privilege, straight privilege, male privilege, and so on. This is a term we hear even more in light of the death of George Floyd and the protests since then, and particularly in the context of white privilege.
But what is privilege?
In the social justice world, people with a certain kind of privilege are people with unearned advantages simply on the basis of their identity. Therefore, when you hear someone talk about “white privilege,” that person is talking about unearned advantages from being white; when someone talks about “straight privilege,” that person is talking about unearned advantages from being heterosexual; when someone talks about “male privilege,” that person is talking about unearned advantages from being male.
The most common misunderstanding I come across about privilege is that, if you’re described as having a particular type of privilege (example: white privilege), it’s an insult. To the contrary, it’s not an insult, but instead a statement that, since you’re white, you’re not as likely to experience certain negative things that many people of color experience, not because you actually did, expected, asked for, or earned anything, but simply because you’re white.
That being said, if you have a certain privilege based on your identity (regardless of what part of your identity involves privilege), there may be times when you may hear a phrase such as “you’re showing your white privilege” or “not everyone has straight privilege.” You may’ve even heard of the phrase “check your privilege.” These sorts of phrases are variations of someone else telling you to, in the words of an Everyday Feminism piece, “reflect on the ways that your social status might have given you an advantage – even if you didn’t ask for it or earn it – while their social status might have given them a disadvantage.” While a phrase like “check your privilege” is often viewed as an insult, even by many in the online world, I encourage those who are told to check their privilege (or some variation of that) to learn about how your privilege affects you (or how a lack of privilege for certain groups affects others) instead of getting defensive.
Instead of being an insult (which is how some people view it), privilege is more than anything else a shorthand explanation for how whites (without explanation) face less scrutiny from law enforcement than people of color, for how family rejection is much more likely to happen with gay and lesbian couples than straight couples, for how a man is much less likely to be sexually assaulted than a woman, and so on. Some groups have unearned advantages while others don’t (or have unearned disadvantages); for that reason, understanding privilege and how it affects certain groups of people is important.
This is part of the “what is” series.
 It’s worth noting that it’s possible for someone to have one kind of privilege but not another. For example, it’s possible to have straight privilege but not the privilege of being white, or the privilege of being white but not male privilege.