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Inclusion Column

Equity and Inclusion; Lessons in a Pandemic

By Teresa González, Psy. D.

The past days have been unsettling for many as our daily activities, education, jobs, travels, and even finances are being impacted by the unparalleled consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Educators around the globe are witnessing how our students are affected. There are those who depended on the one free meal that they were getting at a public school, and can no longer receive this benefit because their school had to be closed; those waiting to take SATs to pursue their professional goals at various universities; the ones who are homesick and were anxiously waiting for the chance to visit their loved ones during Spring Break; those who do not have the means to access electronic learning platforms; the ones who feel safer in school than they do at home; the seniors at international schools who are requested to vacate residences leaving so much behind. There is sadness, stress, uncertainty, and anxiety. 

And it is amidst all the disparity that we can clearly see that we are all equal. Who amongst us does not have a loved one who may be at high risk because of their age or other health conditions? Who amongst us has not been moved by the way communities are coming together to express hope or to recognize health professionals? Who amongst us could safely go on a trip when borders are closing and travel restrictions are changing by the day? Who amongst us has not experienced fear of the unknown? Although fear may help everyone exercise caution, it can also lead to selfish or discriminatory actions that worsen the situation. 

This is not a time for fear. It is a time for compassion; being mindful of the distress others may be experiencing, demonstrating empathy, understanding that each person is experiencing this situation and its effects differently. It is a time for gratitude; taking the time to conscientiously appreciate our gifts, demonstrating this appreciation, valuing those around us and what we often take for granted. It is a time for social awareness; understanding that everyone has a diverse background that relates to how they are living this novel situation, accepting that we are part of a community, recognizing how our actions directly affect others even at a global scale, and assuming our social responsibility. It is a time for real inclusion; a time to let go of our differences and come together for the benefit of all. 

Crises present opportunities. And in the face of this unprecedented health crisis, we must ask ourselves not only what we can do, but what we can learn, and what we must change. This world crisis has made inequality evident: from the cost of healthcare and tests to stockpiling supplies for no reason, from people suffering blatant discrimination at airports to those who could access a private jet at any moment, from professionals who cannot afford social distancing to those who can safely work from home. Avoiding crowds and staying with our families has also made us reflect on the need for authentic connections. In an age of social connectedness, some are finding to be strangers who happen to live together, and others are desperately tracking their quarantine experience on Social Media. Finally, this crisis has brought our attention to the quality of the air that we are breathing, the stars that we missed in the night sky, the noise that prevented us from really listening to each other, and the pace at which we were living. 

We are all looking forward to the time when this will be a past experience that we’ve overcome, but as we realize we are all equal in our vulnerability, let’s not ever forget the lessons in this crisis.