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5 Reasons I'll Still Be Self-Isolating Even After The States Reopen

Sorry sis, but I won't be at the celebratory brunch any time soon.

Life & Travel

Everything related to COVID-19 has been a hot mess and a ball of stress. From losing clients and being stuck in the U.S. to having to cancel events and even coping with the death of someone I know---life's been more than challenging these past few months. When I'm not trying to pick up the pieces of my broken travel plans and confused bank account, I'm juggling virtual appointments with my therapist, course assignments for my master's program, incessant Zoom meeting and event invites, and thoughts of saying to hell with it all.

I can definitely empathize with the millions of others in the same boat as me.

So please, bruh… sis, just know this: When outside fully opens for all of us, don't expect me to join you at that brunch table, on the cruise trip, or even for worship service. I don't care how many masks, sprays, and reassurances are given. Ya girl won't be in the building. Period.

I know some states and countries have lifted some restrictions, and people are out and about, but I'll still be self-isolating until I feel super-comfortable deep down in the pits of my soul to join the masses again. Hey, I won't shame you or try to convince you to do the same. I'll just let you know 5 reasons why I'm choosing caution over comfort:

Image via Giphy

1. I've found career direction, money savvy, and discipline by staying inside.

Initially, I was very depressed and angry about being forced to remain in the same place for an extended period of time. (I mean, it's one thing to make a choice not to go anywhere. It's another for borders to be closed.) I also, obviously, did not like the initially negative impact COVID-19 had on my income streams. However, time at home has forced me to center my thoughts, get more creative, and reevaluate the services I offer and who I offer them to.

When you're distracted by too many choices, you sometimes get so caught up in it all that you lose sight of your long-term goals and what truly makes you happy. I thought I'd escaped the rat race of a 9-to-5 by going freelance full-time, but I found myself on another hamster wheel of entrepreneurship that wasn't really serving me. One client loss actually led me to a realization about a service I offer that I don't even enjoy doing---one that wasn't bringing in much money to begin with. COVID-19 forced me to essentially let go of dead weight and reevaluate the return on investment of time and energy.

I've also consulted branding managers, revamped my Website, got a new therapist, attended cool virtual events (that I would've been too busy to consider attending in-person), and found other skills I can market to make a coin. I think I have more self-work and re-focusing to do, so inside I'll be for a little while longer.

2. I can contribute to the good of the environment.

While I know governments have to make tough decisions that affect society as a whole, I can make my own choices about my body, my health, and my safety. Some of the affects of quarantine have been positive for the environment anyway. Experts have found that pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have decreased since the pandemic began, and though the positive effects might subside, this is good news for now.

Just because quarantines are lifted and businesses can open doesn't mean I have to immediately go back to life as usual. There's no law that says I have to go outside when everything opens up again. It's that simple.

I'm not an essential worker, my line of work can be done from anywhere that has WIFI and electricity, and I think it will be helpful to the community as a whole to help lessen the load of accommodating so many people who will be flooding the streets.

Image via Giphy

3. I've adopted healthier habits and lost weight.

Yep, even with all the take-out and delivery food. Before the nationwide quarantine and business closures, I loved going out to eat and I only worked out when I felt like it. I'd have a meal at a restaurant at least three times a month. I enjoy the experience of having a chef cook and not having to do dishes or shop for groceries. When quarantines were mandated, I craved restaurant food, so I'd order delivery or takeout. Sadly, many restaurants are ill-equipped or lack proper infrastructure for effective delivery service, even when partnering with third-party apps.

After two very popular delivery platforms utterly disgusted me---offering cold, low-quality food, horrible drop-offs, and high fees---I decided to fast. I initially did two weeks---for the first, only water and tea, and the second, soups and liquids.

I really didn't start the fast to lose weight since fasts, for me, are related to spiritual and mental health, however, it doesn't hurt that I've lost 10 lbs so far.

I plan to continue. It's my way to take focus off unhealthy eating habits, detach from relying on restaurant meals, and release anger about wasted time and money. I plan to go vegan for a while once I break my fast (another lifestyle change I've done in the past and enjoyed).

Image via Giphy

4. I was a germ-conscious introvert before COVID-19, and being so has suited me just fine.

No shade to people who are the total opposite---again, this is not to shame anyone for how they choose to live their lives---but I can count on one hand how many times I've been hospitalized or even extremely sick. I have always been a big fan of staying home if there are any semblance of symptoms of any sort of contagious ailment such as the common cold or flu. I was that kid who would not share food or candy with anybody, and don't get me started on toilet seats, cups, and utensils. I'm notorious for not letting people do things like dip their hands in a bag of chips or double dip a spoon in a sauce or soup.

I'm still a bit of a germaphobe---someone who doesn't allow "outside clothes" on or in my bed, washes clothing (no matter the color) in hot water, wears shower shoes in bathtubs I didn't clean myself (yes, even at hotels), and keeps handy bottles of sanitizer in my purse, in my car, and in almost every cupboard of the house.

After more than a decade of living in New York, falling victim to bedbugs from an apartment rental gone bad, and having a major health scare in my late teens, I stepped up the sanitation and germ-conscious game and never looked back. And I know, sis, I know: There are people who have done it all and still, unfortunately, got sick. However, experts have said, time and time again, that the more you can lessen exposure to germs and bodily fluids, the better your chances are of staying healthy.

Image via Giphy

5. I need more evidence of a lower risk of contracting COVID-19.

So many stories are going around about the risks of getting COVID-19, the strain its caused for the healthcare system, and how a "mutant" version of it is anticipated to emerge in the near future. I'm not one to live by fear, but survivors of the virus have even said they do not think it a good idea to reopen businesses and reschedule recreational activities with groups so soon. And though there are vaccines under development, there is no vaccine readily available to the average consumer, according to reports.

A simple trip to the store for essentials has shown me that many don't follow directions and won't respect the six-foot advisement of social distancing anyway. I still see people gathering in groups conversing with no masks, people not washing their hands or using hand sanitizer, people using their bare hands to test fruits and vegetables, people coughing or sneezing without covering their mouths or using the inside of their elbows… I could go on and on. Even if I chose to do some of my favorite things outdoors--- sit on a beach, read at the library, have a meal on an outdoor veranda, or get on a plane---I can't do it with 100-percent confidence that I won't have an anxiety attack or be exposed to the virus.

Folks, I'd rather be safe than sorry, and to be honest, going back to life as usual for a brunch date, movie night or overseas trip just isn't in the cards for me right now. I will continue to pray, sanitize, self-isolate, self-motivate, and take things as slowly as I feel comfortable doing.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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