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Who falls through the net… #BlackenAsiaWithLove

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Right here…

Right here where I am, it’s just been announced that we’re on lockdown from midnight. I am not sure how most people heard about it. A colleague mentioned it earlier in our texts about the day’s duties. Right now, my husband is sitting next to me on the sofa, texting back-n-forth with a neighbor who is freaking out about the stricter conditions. My neighbor’s got the travel bug, so being on lock down suffocates him.

In India…

I am listening to a podcast with Barkha Dutt, a journalist I met years ago in Delhi. She’s being interviewed about the “unthinkable” ways India’s migrant workers have fallen through the net. In India, public transportation was shut down only hours after the official order to shelter in place. Migrant workers were given no opportunity to return home. Meanwhile, as many in media have pointed out, much fanfare has been made of the government’s repatriation of wealthier Indians due to Corona. At the time of the writing of this piece, tens of thousands are walking home, “on empty stomachs.” They blame the D’elite (Delhi+elite) for not caring, despite the conditions of this catastrophe (ok, so like abandoning a sinking Titanic based on class)! What’s more, as compared to many countries – and ‘ageing’ Italy in particular where the virus is very virulent – India has a HUGE population of under 5-year olds, who are also thought to be more vulnerable to the virus.

In New Orleans…

It reminds me of Hurricane Katrina in too many ways to casually note down.  Only a year before Katrina hit New Orleans, I had just completed graduate school there, and shortly thereafter moved to Germany, then settled in India’s capital. I was flying home for a visit as Katrina threatened the gulf coast.  All were glued to the 24-hour live coverage. In Katrina’s aftermath, I watched as comedian Mike Meyers and Kanye West both nervously hosted one of those live, network TV fundraisers.

Apparently, the star hosts were given scant scripts to narrate helicopter footage of rescues and stranded survivors. Mike twisted back-and-forth with his hands pinned behind his back as he matter-of-factly spewed facts about the drowned city. Visibly anxious and ill at ease, hands (fists?) in pockets, Kanye says: “I hate the way they portray us in media: You see a Black family, it says they’re looting. You see a white family, it says they’re looking for food.” Remember, Kanye cautions, “they’ve been given the order to shoot us,” as the political response to the network news’ version of Katrina. Finally, Kanye blurts out: “George Bush does not care about Black people.” BTW, there are awesome memes about both statements. And right now, the streets of NOLA as just as empty, businesses and communities just as gutted. You can’t just throw beads at that, hoping it will “miraculously” go away in time for Easter, as 45 said standing next to health officials who knew better.

We thought that Bush-era was bad, but Americans have seen much worse since. Now, 45’s FEMA is saying “shelter in place.” So, too, it seems, had India not managed to avoid electing a big man, who carries a big stick and lets the actual working people fall through the net. At least India’s leader had the decency to offer a heartfelt apology and explain the reasoning in some efforts towards transparency. It’s clear today’s FEMA is a carbon copy of Bush’s, but in a digital world.

In America…

Momma is a senior citizen. So are her siblings. Yesterday I video chatted with momma and also got to speak with her elder sister, too. Aunty was suiting up to go to the store. She couldn’t find any protective masks anywhere she’d looked -even online- so she showed me how she’d wrapped a colorful scarf around her head, covering her nose, mouth and neck. “With my glasses and long sleeves,” aunty said “there won’t be nothing exposed!” She explained that she takes wet wipes with her when she goes shopping to sanitize the shopping cart and every single item she touches. “Look,” she said opening her eyes widely, “I took yo’ lil cousins shopping with me, and they thought I was being dramatic!”

I also got to speak with aunty and momma’s niece who’d not long ago arrived with her newborn to stay. I hear a newfound maturity and resolve in her voice, still I resist revealing my pity for her having to embark upon this whole new journey in the middle of this crisis. My little cousin doesn’t need my pity, nor does her son. How’re we gonna raise this kid not to be defined by the fear we’re all feeling right now!

Corona parties…

Dear Corona, we’ve all noticed the smog is gone, and from that we shan’t go back! The virus is demanding that we re-organize our societies against an unprecedented, clear and present threat. Societies know buckling down for war, but now there are no Corona factories shelling out pollution and bombs to explode elsewhere. There’s no attempt to go on with regular life, even if undercover. Right here, like cities across the world, we’re shut down, locked in, demanded by government to stay inside (in my case, a tiny 1-bedroom graced by a balcony). The only Coronas in my house are chilling in my fridge next to the lime. A neighbor, my husband and I are having a Corona party tonight, right here!

For any who doubted the force of nature, perhaps here’s where newfound respect begins. Here’s proof for those who doubted our inter-connectedness; Corona don’t care about your race, gender, class, religion, nationality or politics. Corona don’t care if you go to church or never seen the inside of one. Corona don’t care if you believe humanity is cursed, damned for sinning. Call Corona a “Chinese virus” if you wish…China’s global. So’s Corona. Join me in my global stay-home Corona party, we’re celebrating all there is to learn at this peculiar moment in the short span of humanity on Earth. Bring your playlist. All you have to do is turn on your jam and you’re right here. When in doubt, start with Disco, b/c “the feelings right, the music’s tight on the Disco night,” obviously.

Right there…

The hospital down the road has just been found to be a Corona party. Several health care workers and food service staff tested positive. *This may sound frightening but they’ve subsequently set up 10 area testing centres, including a nearby school. Lines of contact are being traced and they’re armed with two test types, including a rapid South Korean Corona test that gives results in 10 minutes. Thankfully thus few’ve tested positive out of thousands.

People have taken to social distancing, and chide anyone foolish enough to ignore the warnings emerging from public health officials around the globe. We argue over the efficacy of masks while their availability is rendered political – masks aren’t profitable … not until they’re valuable enough to score political favors and public adulation. Again, it was Walmart, not George Bush’s FEMA, who were the first on scene with water and relief to those Katrina had left stranded atop their rooftops. “We are not to be called upon as citizens…but as consumers,” Toni Morrison said in reflection upon Dubya’s call to action following 9-11: ‘Go shopping’. Sadly, her prophetic words about one catastrophe unfolded in another. Don’t let NOLA’s Katrina be America’s Corona. Wash your GD hands, and contact your congresswomen and men. Demand coordinated action. Demand a healthcare option as universal as Corona.

What’s clear is that nations who lack a public healthcare system will have many more who fall through the net. Basically, there is no net. While Wuhan’s was a surprise Corona party, the rest of the world has known its coming. And while Corona has changed a time or two since it left its hometown, we all still knew what we were getting; denial’s a bummer.

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