April 2, 2020

ICYMI: Opinion: Get through today but remake tomorrow

Multnomah County employees set up a temporary shelter in the Oregon Convention Center on Friday, March 20, 2020. The shelter, which includes 130 beds, will be made available to people who are homeless and at risk for contracting the novel coronavirus. Dave Killen / Staff, The Oregonian

The Oregonian published an opinion piece by Meyer's president and CEO, Michelle J. DePass in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle highlighted the need to center equity in the response:

Make no mistake. This pandemic is hitting hard. And it will hit some of us much harder than others. As the public health crisis becomes an economic shock, the failures in our social safety nets have been laid bare, disproportionately affecting the poor, immigrant families and people of color. Lack of paid sick leave has meant that some employees have had to choose between coming in to work sick - possibly with COVID-19 - or staying at home without pay. Those who experience hunger and rely on social services now find those services overwhelmed. As the virus spreads through our unsanitary and overcrowded jails and prisons, imprisonment for even a misdemeanor offense may effectively result in a death sentence.

We are about to see a “pandemic inequality feedback loop” that will expose every bias we have embedded in our society. As a nation, we have always had deep cracks in our society that cause inequitable outcomes. Oregon is no different. Black children have among the lowest graduation rates from high school, women-run households are suffering under a wage gap that is compounded with each paycheck and undocumented Latinx workers are still exploited for their labor. Native American tribes wrestle with the enduring trauma of termination. We, as a state, have walked a direct line from our history of racial exclusion and intolerance to the racial and class cleavages that this virus is laying bare.

That’s today, but it doesn’t have to be tomorrow.

You can read the entire piece here.