Everyone’s a little bit / Racist sometimes. / Doesn’t mean we go around committing / Hate crimes. / Look around and / You will find / No one’s really / Colorblind. / Maybe it’s a fact / We all should face. / Everyone makes / Judgments / Based on race. — Avenue Q
The lyrics from the hilarious 2004 musical are true but vary to certain degrees. Doctors, nurses, and teachers are probably a tad more racially tolerant than your local Imperial Cyclops. Most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle. Seeing the clamor for in-person school by mostly white, mostly affluent parents, reportedly, forces me into a defensive posture. A card-carrying progressive, I’m automatically “triggered” into thinking there’s a racist component to them. There’s a racist component to just about every political football. School reopenings, history tells me, should be no different.
Actually, there’s no clear answer unless we poll every pro-reopening parent and adjust for error. Assumptions appear to be running the rhetoric. They go a little something like this. White + rich = Republican, and “Republican” equals kowtowing to Dear Leader, who has been frothily ranting for school reopenings since at least 50,000 COVID-racked corpses ago. On the other side, Black/brown = poor and Democrat, and because they’re poor, they probably live with other, older generations who are particularly susceptible to the ravages of the virus. Since most impoverished people work primarily in service and construction, they simply can’t WFH. Naturally, they want their children to go to school in person, though they don’t want Little Johnny or Little Suzie bringing back anything that can kill Grandma or Grandpa. As many school districts are quickly finding out, a COVID-free campus is next to impossible.
I’m still trying to come up with a good reason for in-person instruction during a pandemic. All of the pro arguments (see: my last 50 columns on the subject) are flimsy at best. As the largest school district in a county with thousands of cases and numerous deaths, Fort Worth will discuss possibly extending remote learning on Sep 15. In a private conversation with a fellow Weekly writer, a trustee expressed the school board’s desire to stand up to the small group of vocal parents (allegedly rich, allegedly white, allegedly ReTrumplican) who have been marching for in-person school now!
I’m not saying that every rich white family is happy and contented and free of problems or serious issues. It’s just a simple fact that nearly every rich white family enjoys a distinct advantage over every other type of family, namely easy and affordable access to health care. A recent study led by the University of Pennsylvania found that about half of the country’s low-income communities do not have any ICU beds, zero, and since many poor patients lack decent insurance, the cost of their care often goes well beyond what their insurance companies are willing to cover, creating even more undue financial pressure on the most financially vulnerable. Wealthy white folk needn’t worry because as one Silicon Valley jagoff told Vanity Fair, COVID-19 is a “poor people’s virus.”
There’s another difference between white and Black/brown kids in the classroom. Unless it’s stealing a couple mill from a charity for sick children, most wealthy white kids do not have behavioral problems. Most wealthy white kids have full bellies and don’t live in bad parts of town. What I’m saying is that most wealthy white kids don’t face the kinds of barriers to education that poor, minority children do. To rich white kids, school is a great place. To many poor, minority children, school is a stressful, anxiety-fueled test of survival. Forcing them back into classrooms during a pandemic will only set these kids back further. Not only do they have to worry about the regular stuff — mainly food insecurity and the stress from home staying with them throughout the day, leading to discipline issues — but poor, minority kids also would have to worry about catching a deadly virus, one that seems to be targeting them. Now herding these children back to an undoubtedly unsanitary place so their parents can clock in on time means nothing to the oligarchy as Big Business receives another multibillion-dollar bailout and as the stock market surges.
Dear Leader is only partly to blame for the COVID disaster. Republican- and Democrat-led states reopened way too soon. We will soon find out whether schools reopened too early, too. I hope I’m wrong. — Anthony Mariani
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