While there is no shortage of media coverage, think pieces, and speculation on the full effects of the spreading virus, COVID-19, many of us still find ourselves unsure of how to plan, rearrange, and reconfigure our schedules and lives. Many of our clients and consultants are gearing up for all-staff retreats, day-long trainings, and strategic planning sessions that center equity, diversity, and inclusion, all in the context of an emerging and increasingly alarming public health crisis. Yet, many of our most committed partners are struggling to find alternatives that don’t require them to shift plans altogether.
The work of equity requires us to slow down in the midst of challenges and crises, and take a bold stand in the interest of safety, first. Safety means many different things, and this is where centering equity becomes increasingly essential.
For some organizations it may be tempting to accommodate staff by offering hybrid virtual meetings where some meet in person while others join online - leaving the responsibility on staff to opt out or opt in. There are a couple of equity considerations in this approach: 1. It runs the risk of compromising the health of staff and literally everyone they come in contact with, including and most especially those most vulnerable among us and, 2. Even if you give staff the opportunity to opt out because of health considerations of themselves or people in their lives you are inadvertently creating separate and unequal experiences for those for whom it is imperative they not attend. When we consider the implications of how ableism intersects with a number of identities impacted by White Supremacy, the burden then falls on those who are most marginalized to opt out.
It is for this reason that TJC is taking a firm stance on canceling and rescheduling all in-person meetings of individuals and groups as well as travel for the month of March (maybe longer). We have taken the measure of directing our own staff to work from home until we know more about the spread of this virus and testing strategies.
In addition to the growing body of information that suggests the most important steps individuals and groups can take is Social Distancing, we have identified the following equity considerations we recommend thinking about at this time: