California Educator

June/July 2020

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hardship, limited access to health care, and slow internet or lack of internet access at home, among other things. Th ese di spariti es have exi st ed for years, harming our students, and con- tinue to harm them today. "Here's the reality," said NEA Vice Pres- ident Becky Pringle at a virtual town hall in April. "Structural racism [is] the preex- isting condition that [has] destined us to be where we are — where our communi- ties of color are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. We shouldn't be shocked." Nationally and statewide, growing data reflects the unequal impact COVID-19 is having on communities of color, especially among African Americans. According to data compiled in May by APM Research Lab, African Americans collectively represent 13 percent of the population in all areas of America releasing mortality data that includes race and ethnicity, but have suffered 27 percent of deaths. While Latino Americans fare better overall, in certain states their COVID-19 deaths are also disproportion- ate to their share of the population. The toll is not only sickness and death. The devastation exacted by lost or reduced jobs and salaries and the resulting housing and food instability, as well as students' difficulties accessing needed resources to learn, greatly expands the num- ber of people affected. "We are going to be in distance learning in the fall. You have to have something where a kid can walk in with issues, but they can put in significant time and work and still pass." —Rori Abernethy, United Educators of San Francisco Pringle emphasized that while educators and their unions have focused on the "right now" to keep students safe and keep them learning, the education community must use this experi- ence to help build a future that is equitable and fair, "where all of our students, every one of them, have access and opportunity." Educators reach students where they are Rori Abernethy's experience teaching 13 years in Oakland unex- pectedly prepared her to teach during the pandemic. "I had lots of kids who missed a lot of school," she says. "ey had family problems — their parents lost their jobs, or somebody died, or they're the family provider and have to work. Or they got involved in criminal activities and went to jail. In Oakland especially, teachers deal with a lot more trauma. You see the impact of someone who did not get APM Research Lab 33 J U N E / J U L Y 2 0 2 0

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