Since March, I have been able to telecommute for my job. I was fortunate enough to have that option. My daughters, both of whom are mothers, also had acceptable options. My oldest daughter retired a year ago and was homeschooling five of her grandchildren before COVID-19 hit America. So, she was able to continue their education without disruption or even a blip on the radar. My youngest daughter was able to telecommute from her full-time job as well as from her part-time position in her children’s school. When her children started virtual learning with their private school, they were prepared to engage in their school’s learning program without interruptions.
My experience and that of my daughters do not match those of most of my neighbors or their families’ options. I am a Black female, with several degrees. My oldest daughter has worked in the conference planning business that required her to have exceptional skills with technology, the internet and virtual contact with clients. My youngest daughter followed her sister into the world of conference planning and later followed me into education. She volunteered as an English/Spanish translator for years and ran a computer literacy lab in public housing. She always supplemented the experience of her children’s education at home, ensuring that none of them fell through the cracks. Neither of my daughters relied on the school systems to close the achievement gaps. Rather, they made sure that children who were left behind did not include their children or grandchildren.
I now come to school year 2020-21 and the COVID-19 pandemic. The dilemma has come down to two of my great-grandchildren. One is a pre-kindergarten three year old; the other is almost two, so still a would-be day care baby. The problem is whether to send two of my youngest babies to school or assist them at home with their virtual learning. For me there is no choice. Better yet, there should be no reason for me to have to choose between keeping them at home or sending them to school to learn at the risk of dying or infecting the family or maybe losing an elderly family member to coronavirus. Yet, there is a choice.
I am fortunate that I have the option. Most people in my neighborhood do not have a choice. They have been deemed essential workers — they keep grocery stores stocked; they are the bus drivers: and sanitation workers picking up the trash; they are the police and firefighters reporting to work daily to make sure we are safe. Like one of my older babies, they are the doctors and nurses; they are the cooks and waiters. They are also the people facing eviction because they have no jobs or income and will be in even worse conditions before the pandemic is over.
In this environment, we are asked to make the decision as to what we love more, the money from the job, or our children? Black families are making choices that will determine if they will have future generations. America, we are the canary in the coal mine. You will be making the same choice soon.