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Guest Opinion | Danielle Ross: Birthright 2020, After Floyd We Demand Equality

Published on Monday, June 1, 2020 | 5:21 am
 

For three months people sat at home watching you as you broadcast the news from home offices with whole libraries behind you.

You shared videos from perfectly set-dressed and aesthetically pleasing area of your house,  jogged down beautiful tree-lined streets with manicured lawns in safe neighborhoods. You conducted Zoom calls and got paid your full salaries to WFH. You hoarded toilet paper, water, and beef, ordered Amazon, and Postmates, and complained about the speed of delivery on social media. 

Sure, you had to teach your own kids but you make the best of it by taking fun videos and pictures and sharing them with your friends and the world. You made up silly games to pass the time and complained about being bored. 

I admit three months is a long time to be stuck in the house. I’m sure some of you had it harder than others, people had to ask parents for loans, take cash out of retirement accounts, or God forbid tap into savings. 

As the news spread and we got to know a little more about the virus, you discovered that the most vulnerable population – the elderly, and those people were getting sick and dying – so people began to get antsy. 

Once the White House’s messaging began to take a turn for the worse, people began to refuse to stay inside and refused to wear masks outside. 

Slowly, you went out and peacefully protested because you wanted to walk trails, and sit on beaches — and how dare they take away some of your freedom in an abundance of caution. At the same time the toughest among you leaned into intimidation and took up arms to protest showing up in military gear and assault weapons at state capitols to demonstrate their strength and disdain with the system. 

You went face to face with police without consequence. The goal: to intimidate and flaunt your entitlement. 

Only one problem…we were watching! 

We realized that your reality looks a lot different from ours. Your homes are beautiful. We noticed that the instability and manufactured circumstances in our lives hasn’t afforded us the ability to get married. We realized we weren’t looking forward to that next promotion and salary bump. We don’t relate to that. Instead, if we weren’t working dangerous jobs that would leave us at high risk of contracting the virus, we were losing our jobs at a far higher rate than you.

 Maybe it should have been blessings in disguise, but the truth is, the low wage jobs we did have supported our livelihoods and afforded us the ability to hang in by a string and buy the occasional pair of Jordans to help us feel “normal”. 

We were going mad too! Our housing situations are complicated. The pandemic may have caught us in the midst of getting ourselves together. Sleeping on couches of a family members house, finding a spot on the floor of a friend’s place, or floating in between the two with our children. In our own homes we lived under constant threat of landlords raising our rent at any time, for any reason, regardless of our ability to pay – because capitalism is the American way. We were being wrongfully evicted and put on the street due to inability to pay, nevermind 1/3 of the country was out of work and applying for unemployment. 

We too were on the edge in our multi-generational, over crowded, houses. No food to eat and when the stimulus did hit our accounts most of it was consumed by overdraft fees, and past due bills. Food prices doubled…and these Goddamn kids were driving us crazy! 

We were stuck. Nowhere to go. No money. No savings. No healthcare, no hope and NOTHING TO LOSE. 

All we could do was tune into social media to connect with our friends and watch you broadcast daily about the ever-changing world and the “new normal”. We watched the Orange Demon, his Senate Minions, and spineless Yes Men spiral the country we built into mad chaos. But, still for the most part we complied. Until… 

We watched as Ahmud Arbury was murdered in Brunswick, Georgia by civilians. Nothing happened! 

We saw big corporations loot millions of dollars in government relief money and force people back on payroll at lower wages than unemployment to benefit their bottom lines. 

We heard Breonna Taylor, an essential worker, was wrongfully gunned down and murdered in her own home by police in Louisville, Kentucky as her loved one tried to rightfully protect their home. Nothing happened! 

We heard the assumed Democratic nominee Joe Biden challenge our blackness all the while knowing his law and order voting record has ironically been extremely consequential when it comes to our wealth condition and position in this country. Nothing happened! 

Then we saw a woman in Central Park, New York nearly strangle a dog to death while she falsely exaggerated a claim to police. Fully understanding the threat she posed to an innocent man’s life. He forgave her and felt the response was harsh. Still..nothing happened. 

I’m not exactly sure when we realized we were no longer asking for more. Or when we decided that we too want a stable income, nice homes, safe neighborhoods and college funds for our kids. 

Maybe you couldn’t tell how over it all we were by the time George Floyd was murdered in cold blood in the streets of Minnesota. The people pleaded with police to see his life slipping away. When he accepted his death and called out to his mother. It hurt us. Clearly, it hurt many of you. We saw our husbands, our brothers, our uncles and sons. We saw ourselves in George and for what seems like the very first time, you saw yourself in him too. Honestly, we didn’t know how much we were over the centuries systemic oppression but that day it sat on us like a weight on our chest. 

We the people, the poor and marginalized in this country have a single line of defense left and that’s our numbers. We’ve peacefully appealed to your humanity. We’ve protested and reasoned for 150 years. It’s been long enough. Now, we demand our birthright! 

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