Many are anxiously waiting for the day when we can all “go back to normal”, to our lives “before COVID-19”.
But that “normal” was full of structural inequities and systemic injustices – racism, income and wealth inequality, poverty, economic exploitation and extraction, a digital divide – that COVID-19 has highlighted in some stark ways.
So I don’t want our world to just return to how things were before COVID-19. I want our world – our “normal” – to be re-defined in ways that are more equitable and more just, and more inclusive and supportive of opportunity for everyone, but especially for those who have historically been marginalized and left behind.
I invite everyone to imagine and say out loud what that re-defined normal would look like with equity and justice as core principles – and then join together to begin the hard, long, work of advocacy, organizing, and re-shaping public opinion and political will to bring about that re-defined normal.
Here are some of my ideas about a re-defined normal that I imagine, and am committed to work for:
Health and Health Care
A re-defined normal where health care is accessible and affordable for everyone, regardless of income, or employment, or geography, or immigration status – we all deserve access to the care that we need to keep us our healthiest, and to be there in times of emergency.
A re-defined normal where telehealth and virtual care makes culturally and linguistically appropriate health care through exponentially expanded networks of providers more available and convenient, when we as patients need care – including evenings and weekends – and providers are incentivized to provide such virtual care through sustainable payments.
A re-defined normal where the underlying health disparities in hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and so many other chronic conditions are not just explanations for the vast disparities in the incidence and deadly consequences of COVID-19 among Blacks, Latinx, American Indians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders – but where those disparities are no longer tolerated, and there are sufficient resources and attention prioritized for eliminating those inequities.
And thinking long-term, a re-defined normal where every community has a “health opportunity center” (replacing what will be closed up strip malls and urban retail spaces, because those locations are likely in neighborhoods where health care services have been least available but are most needed): a one-stop place for health care and promoting health: whole person- centered, culturally and linguistically appropriate, physical, behavioral, oral health care and traditional/cultural healing – as well as space for community meetings, recreation and physical activities, a community garden (on rooftops if needed!), farmer’s market, a community kitchen – and child care and pre-school and after-school and adult day health programs that honor and bring together multiple generations to learn, play, celebrate, and thrive together…
A re-defined normal where we recognize that “essential workers” include the often unseen workers who grow, pick, pack, process, prepare, serve, and deliver our food; keep our groceries and supermarkets stocked; drive our buses and trains; and collect our garbage – as well as health care workers and first responders – and where all workers earn a livable wage, have paid sick, medical, and family leave, and access to affordable child care.
A re-defined normal where small, minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses are the first, not the last, to get the needed economic assistance and support to re-open, and get access to low-interest credit and capital to grow those businesses, and re-start local economies.
A re-defined normal where those that have been laid off and are unemployed are offered training and educational opportunities that would equip them for next generation jobs in an innovative, global, green economy that will fuel growth and stimulate new economic activities that will also give us a fighting chance against global warming, and open up new opportunities for global economic leadership.
A re-defined normal that creates federal, state, and local Public Works Administrations that will provide jobs for millions of laid off and unemployed Americans, rebuilding our infrastructure, building affordable housing, creating more diverse and inclusive arts and culture, preserving our natural resources, and stimulating a new green economy
A re-defined normal that makes broadband and WiFi ubiquitous and affordable, closing the digital divide across geography, income, race, and disability.
A re-defined normal where regional planning across city, county, and state boundaries for transportation, housing, economic development, health, education, the environment, and other issues is proactively promoted and financially supported rather than perpetuating outdated, inefficient governmental fiefdoms, especially with new investments in national infrastructure and local community development.
Housing and Education
A re-defined normal where the post-COVID-19 economy prioritizes both unprecedented and smart investments in affordable housing, and provides home loans that will result in a new generation of home ownership that will build wealth in historically disinvested communities; strategies would include assistance with down payments and additional discounted mortgages for home buyers that bring racial and economic diversity to neighborhoods to reduce residential segregation.
A re-defined normal where education is based on providing equitable opportunity to all, with technology and other support available to all students equally, where critical thinking, problem-solving, and team work are the measures of student success rather than grades, and inherently biased standardized tests are replaced with “whole file reviews” that value diversity, uniqueness, and the “distance travelled” among each class of students, and where public college education is tuition-free, and current student loan debts are cancelled.
Who We Are as a Society
A re-defined normal where we recognize, support, and honor our self-defined, chosen families, as well as our families of birth and adoption – and have paid leave to take care of family members when they are sick and unlimited visitation at hospitals; where family caregivers are recognized and paid through programs such as In Home Supportive Services.
A re-defined normal where our immigration policies welcome immigrants and refugees as vital contributors to society, bringing family relationships, community-building, and entrepreneurship to revitalize our neighborhoods and communities, and contribute innovation and natural global connections to promote our shared prosperity; where we value our diversity as a national strength in our global future.
A re-defined normal where mass federal and state incarceration is no longer an excuse for profiteering for private prison corporations and there is accelerated release on parole, increased use of alternative courts and probation, bail reform, elimination of antiquated fines and fees, and immigrants are not detained pending their immigration hearings.
Who We Are as a Democracy
A re-defined normal where voter registration is automatic at state departments of motor vehicles, at U.S. citizenship ceremonies, and for the formerly incarcerated; where vote-by-mail is available in every state, as well as early in-person voting and same-day voter registration; and where there are proactive steps to block voter suppression through voter identification requirements and purges of voter rolls.
A re-defined normal where data by age, sex, race, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other demographic factors are collected, analyzed, and reported to identify and shift resources towards reducing disparities across all programs and services.
What are your dreams, aspirations, and hopes for a re-defined normal?