Three esteemed panelists spoke to the Boston College community virtually on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 about the pressing issues of systemic racism and “structural inequality,” specifically in the trying times of the COVID-19 viral pandemic.
Dr. Tanya L. Sharpe—chair of Social Work in the Global Community in the Factor-Inwentash faculty of social work at the University of Toronto—Dr. Van Bailey—a successful creator of many inclusion centers on college campuses across the country, as well as an activist for Black and LQBTQ+ support—and Monica Cannon—an activist, community organizer, and founder/CEO of Black Inc NonProfit—shared their profound insights on the many ways the coronavirus has amplified the already present issues of racism in the United States, as well as globally.
First, the three panelists discussed the ways in which their work and the issues as a whole have changed given the recent switch in administration, specifically amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
All three agreed that the fight has not become easier. The only thing that has changed is against whom the fight is. Democrat or Republican, the issues of racism and discrimination against marginalized groups of people are present and need to be changed.
“There are so many people making decisions about communities that they had never stepped in,” Monica stated as she explained the continuities between the Trump and Biden administrations and the lack of legitimate representation marginalized groups have in the current and past American political climate.
Additionally, in relation to activism, all three shared that while the pandemic has changed the way their activism looks, it has not changed the drive, urgency, and importance of their work.
“One of the things that I know that is healing for us is our ability to see one another and be in community and literally feel each other's energy," shared Dr. Van Bailey.
He explained his use of technology to create spaces via Instagram Live for LGBTQ+ People of Color to gather virtually and work together to heal. Van Bailey also shared his commitment to providing prescriptions for individuals amidst their hormonal transition, making it possible for them to continue their journey even when money is tight during these unprecedented times.
Next, the three stressed the importance of funding, stating that white individuals must recognize and use their privilege to push the movement forward. The panelists discussed that they—along with many other people trying to organize to stop racism and advocate for people of color during the pandemic—know what to do with the money much better than someone watching from the outside.
Finally, the panelists expressed their outrage at the fact that it took hundreds of thousands of people losing the battle to COVID-19 and the country as a whole being shut down for individuals to hear the screams of activists and recognize the issues that have been present in our country since its establishment.
“COVID-19 didn’t cause these issues that we have, it exacerbated pre-existing issues that were already happening,” expressed Monica Cannon.
The speakers told viewers the many ways we can use staying at home to educate ourselves so that the individuals who have been working to change the system in which we live do not also have to carry the burden of educating the countless ignorant and naive people across the globe.
“This is an important opportunity for us to move beyond moments to creating movements, ” shared Dr. Tanya Sharpe. “What are you doing to be an activist? Because I don’t want allies, I want some accomplices.”