Giving Compass' Take:
- Tricia Raikes says we must tackle systems change in response to the inequalities highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.
- How can you work to address inequalities in your community and the country at large?
- Read about the essential components of systems change work.
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By almost any measure, American life is increasingly divided. Wealth inequality has skyrocketed over the last few decades, leading to stark differences in access to health care, quality education and stable housing. While we are all feeling the effects of coronavirus—the fear of a loved one falling ill, the anxiety of a simple trip to the grocery store—we’re also seeing how our divisions can be a matter of life and death.
The majority of workers deemed essential during the pandemic—grocery store clerks, bus drivers, delivery people—are people of color. Far too many don’t have the masks and gloves they need to protect themselves and their families, let alone the flexibility to take paid leave. As a society, we have deemed their jobs essential, but not their lives.
The virus’ impact may be disproportionate, but our responsibility to contain it is collective. We know the basics: stay home, wash our hands and wear masks when we absolutely must go out. But those of us who can also have a responsibility to step up and go further. Understanding the causes of the disparity in the coronavirus’ victim rates, we need to recalibrate our actions and our giving to make the biggest possible difference.
But when the immediate threat of this crisis subsides, we cannot continue to accept the deeply inadequate systems of support that left so many of our fellow Americans vulnerable in the first place. The consequences of our divisions have been laid bare; our giving and our actions should lay the foundation for a different kind of world.
For example, through our foundation, my husband and I have spent more than a decade trying to combat youth homelessness—a crisis that impacts millions of young people each year. We’ve learned that the key is fixing the systems that touch their lives long before they’re on the streets. Funding shelter beds is necessary and admirable. But keeping young people out of those shelters in the first place means changing a juvenile justice system that routinely sentences black teens to harsher, more traumatic stays in detention, and changing a school system that pushes some children to succeed and others out the door.
Read the full article about changing our systems in the wake of COVID-19 by Tricia Raikes at Worth.