Social distancing is a privilege
We all felt the hit when we found out we would not be returning to campus for the rest of the semester. Some of us were robbed of proper goodbyes, a timely commencement, conferences and numerous other plans that we had been looking forward to. We didn’t know when we left for Spring Break that—those of us who will be returning—wouldn’t be returning until the fall semester. At first I was shocked by the news, but now I am grateful for it, as the ability to work and educate from home is a luxury that many cannot afford.
As students, we have moved completely online, all of our classes and assignments being held and submitted digitally. For those of us who do research, some of us are also fortunate enough to have the ability to work online. At least in terms of our education, we don’t have to put our health at risk. For some of us—or maybe for our family members or friends—we also have the privilege of having our source of employment be online, as well.
This is not to say that working from home is an ideal situation, as, for a lot of us, home is not a conducive learning environment that allows us to achieve our fullest academic potential. However, this is to say that being home allows us the ability to diminish our risk of adding to the statistics of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a comfort that not everyone gets to share.
Think of your groceries, for example. Grocery stores have gone from being open for 24-hours to closing their doors at eight. The hordes of people that once were in grocery stores has diminished down to a few, the numbers of people allowed in at a time now limited. A lot of us stay home, heavily relying on services like Instacart and Amazon to supply our groceries and essentials and to reduce our risk of exposure, but what about those who work for these companies? To get groceries alone, someone had to deliver them to your door, to the store itself, someone had to stock them and sell them. Anything you order online, be it face masks or toilet paper, someone had to package and ship that to your home.
For many, working is not optional. The uprising of a pandemic doesn’t allow everyone to stay home. Although many companies have waived bill payments for the month, a lot haven’t. Families still need food and essentials, and a lot of bills do still need to be paid, pandemic or not. While a lot of us are comforted by the interiors of our homes, that same opportunity is not granted to everyone, and this is a fact that we should not remain ignorant to.
Floating around social media platforms is the idea that not practicing social distancing makes you “part of the problem.” Yes, if you are hanging out with your friends or interacting with people solely out of boredom, you are (in a way) contributing to the issue at hand. But this blanket-statement assumption that a failure to social distance equates a person to an attitude of carelessness is neither fair nor true in a lot of cases.
If you can stay home, you should, as recommended by most state governments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But as you sit at home scrolling through your news feed, before you share that post or make that comment, remember that not everyone is granted the privilege of social distancing. Instead of broadly shaming those who can’t, be thankful that you can.