Meet Stephen, our Newest Staff Member: The New Normal – How lessons from COVID-19 can provide a more equitable future

As COVID-19 began to take over our country and stay-at-home orders and masks mandates became commonplace, there was one common refrain “when will things go back to normal?” Now as COVID numbers hit higher peaks than last March, that question has shifted from a curious request to a distraught plea but, the question is, is normally the best way to live?

Rushing to “return to normal” has been one of the biggest issues in this pandemic. If people do not take heed of the situation as it stands, we are only setting ourselves up for failures that include; a second round of shutdowns, more small business closures, and once again overwhelming the healthcare system. During this unprecedented pandemic, we should be creating and implementing systems that are sustainable for right now. To be frank, life before the pandemic was not sustainable for most Americans. COVID-19 did not create racial and class disparities, but it greatly exposed them.

The greatest example of how our society can benefit from new normal to me was the record-breaking voter turnout for November’s election. As the States made voting concessions for COVID-19, particularly early voting and no-need absentee ballots, election participation reached an all-time high. Why? Because those who typically experience voter suppression had a much easier time voting due to the aforementioned concessions, although not without stress.

Similar measures, like mail-in voting, should be instituted across the board, in different disciplines. The policy should be designed to make life easier, not harder especially in the arena of education where we so desperately need change. Looking around the state, the same children who are suffering the most from virtual learning are the same ones who were struggling to learn in the physical classroom. There are achievement gaps based on zip codes and it would behoove not only those who live in those areas if they were uplifted but the state of Michigan as a whole.

The policy still needs to develop and take form but I think we would be better served to answer the questions the pandemic has brought than going back to the old way. We have the opportunity for creation and innovation, I think we should take it.

Stephen Wallace is an Regional Engagement and Mobilization Associate for Michigan’s Children