According to the Latino Policy Forum, coronavirus tests taken by Latinos have come up positive nearly 46% of the time. This figure is stunning. To consider that the odds offered by a coin flip can capture a client’s odds of contracting this virus threatens despair. This virus burns furiously, feasting on communities left bone-dry by state systems that assumed that their negligence of marginalized communities would contain itself within the fire lines of legal status, economic class, ethnicity and race. Unlike the unemployment office, the virus doesn’t stop to check for a social security number.
The patterns of need are often the same traumas in slightly altered sequences. One client is facing eviction because of an outstanding ambulance bill for their deceased father; another is facing eviction because they can’t pay an emergency room bill for their ill wife. One grandmother is stuck in her basement apartment because the grandchildren she’s forced to take care of are all under the age of 5; another grandmother is stuck in an attic because her nephew’s monthly wire transfer of $150 doesn’t cover the security deposit for a new place. And through it all, the disease continues to spread.
There are lessons here that don’t need years to be learned. My time at Taller ends in late July as I will be attending law school later in the fall. I am anticipating a shock to my system once I step into an academic setting where policy failure and legal injustice can once again be reduced to chapters in a textbook. I did not experience a close family death, loss of a job, or an eviction due to COVID-19. I worked with people who did, however, and their suffering was deepened by both the policy failures and legal injustices I will someday learn about. My hope for the future lies not in the inevitability of progress. It lies in an orientation towards progress. Working alongside and for my clients has been such a privilege and I know that what I have seen and heard will never leave me. I promise to take what I’ve learned and apply it to what I have yet to learn.