How Essential Are You? By Mark Lampkin

At the end of each year, beginning in 1991, the American Dialect Society has selected a “Word of The Year.” Recent examples are tweet (2009), hashtag (2012), and fake news (2017). With the recent developments of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of many American entities: schools, businesses, and sporting events, we have also come to the conclusion that some of our citizens have been deemed more “essential” than others.

The medical personnel, physicians, nurses, technicians, custodians, have truly been the anchors that are preventing us from drifting out to sea and likely, dying in numbers far greater than we are experiencing. The often-maligned grocery store personnel: owners, stockers, clerks, and cashiers have been elevated to “honored” status as key personnel who have kept us from going hungry. The very same people whom you may not have even spoken to before are now people whose very existence is deemed “ESSENTIAL!” And don’t get it twisted, they were always essential; it has taken a worldwide health crisis for us to see and appreciate their value to our daily lives.

Many of us are doing a measure of self-evaluation to determine how we come out of this crisis and whether or not what you are doing is essential. Many jobs have shown themselves to be readily accomplished remotely. Most homes have some Internet service and a computer, so the excuse of having to come into the “office” is not seen as critical prior to COVID-19. Have you noticed how fewer accidents there are during the morning and evening commutes? Maybe there is a silver lining in all of this.

The United States is, in my opinion, less than 30 days from being in a full-blown depression (by the time you read this article in June, we may be already in it). More than 30 million of our citizens filed unemployment claims in the month of April. That is almost 15 percent of the adult population…but we know in our communities the numbers are significantly higher. It’s the old adage come true; when white America has a cold, Black America has pneumonia. My guess, judging from the sources I review regularly, suggests Black unemployment at between 25-33%.

Here’s the bull’s-eye of this post: Whatever your job/role/skills are, we ALL had better be able to do more and be seen as nothing less than “essential” from now on. We were bracing for the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), and its impact of using robots to do the work of humans, and along comes the coronavirus…and boom, our economy is flatter than a blown tire on the freeway. We are careening…and trying to hold on.

If you have something you can do to make a contribution to your community and society, then let us know. We must be All For One and One For All. Otherwise, the pages of history will not view us kindly.