David Rafael Gonzalez
LV Life Editor
Kara Stevens, author and founder of the Frugal Feminista, talked about the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people of color and the importance of self care and community when fighting for equality on Wednesday at the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Lecture.
Stevens said she was reminded of her alma mater, Oberlin College, and her time at school. She said that as a first generation American and college student, attending a university was a win for her mother as well.
“When I graduated I met the world of adulting at the time of Sept. 11, without a job, a broken heart, feeling rudderless, and living back home in my mama’s house in my childhood bedroom feeling perhaps like those four years in college were in vain,” Stevens said. “Unlike you, I wasn’t experiencing the normal angst and insecurity that comes with first generation college students amidst a global pandemic that uniquely ravished and devastated our communities.”
Stevens said that a recent Stanford study said that in California, Latinos had a three times higher COVID case rate compared to non-Hispanic white Americans. She also said that a typical median white family owned $184,000 in family wealth, a typical black family owned $23,000 and a typical Hispanic family owned $38,000.
“The reason for this uneven devastation points to the structural inequalities that have existed for decades in our society prior to the pandemic,” Stevens said. “We were already buckling under lower home ownership rates, lower retirement savings and mistrust in the healthcare system, lower college attainment and lower access to capital for small businesses prior to the pandemic.”
She said things got worse as people faced more financial emergencies, including job loss, healthcare costs, child care costs and lower wages.
“We had to choose between our health and feeding our families and paying rent,” Stevens said.
This, coupled with proposed laws that would limit voting, took a toll on people’s civic lives, she said.
“With fewer Latinos around to vote, these aggressive and blatant attacks on voting rights that disproportionately silence the voices of students like you, persons with disabilities, low income and African Americans, who vote overly democratic, have a greater chance at eroding our democracy,” Stevens said.
Stevens said that the pandemic also worsened environmental racism. She said that a study found that people of color were more likely to live near polluters, breathe polluted air and had an overall higher level of particulate matter exposure, which leads to lung conditions, heart attacks, premature death and more.
The pandemic also had a widespread effect on mental health problems and exasperated existing ones, she said.
Stevens said that with the widespread trauma in the era of COVID-19, it is important to practice self care and community.
“I know the idea of rest seems antithetical to the goals of yourself and your family,” Stevens said. “But let me tell you as a recovering perfectionist, first gen American, first gen college student, you have time when you create it or the universe has a funny way of making time.”
Stevens urged students to not suffer in silence and to take advantage of the resources on campus.
David Rafael Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Rafael Gonzalez is a senior journalism major and LV Life editor of the Campus Times. He has been a three-time editor-in-chief and has also served as editorial director, LV Life editor and a staff writer.