May 4, 2020

Did you change your spring break plans because of the virus? From what to what?

Break or not, I spend my time getting together with people in my area to fight back against problems related to housing that we face.  The content of it changed as now we’re a part of a broader city-wide rent strike since so many people can’t pay having lost jobs or got hours cut due to the economic crisis sped up by coronavirus. If people are interested in the rent strike or eviction defense, they can message or call (512)710-7156.

My boyfriend who I live with was laid off on his birthday this spring break, which sucked but it was the first time in years we got to celebrate — he usually works doubles most of his birthday week due to SXSW. There were some errands I was hoping to run that I wasn’t able to, though obviously that’s far down the totem pole of our concerns.

How did you feel when you were informed the remainder of the semester would be held online?

Both relieved and sad.

Relieved because with everything else going on the flexibility of online classes has been great.

Sad because this is my first year since I came back to school as a full time student & I was finally getting to know people in my classes a little more. I was hoping to graduate this semester having closer ties to folks but they are definitely easier to make in person than through text!

Where will you be living while courses are held online? Is this a change from usual?

My boyfriend and I share an apartment in Riverside area with our three cats.  Hasn’t changed.

What has been your experience with moving classes online? What’s good? What’s not so good?

Good: the flexibility. Also my professors being really understanding and adaptable with the circumstances.

Not good: it’s harder to focus at home – both because my boyfriend is home more now and because I’m not able to stay up at school to study. A lot of what’s going on in the world seems more pressing than school work, so I really have to be on top of myself to make time for it.  I miss being able to practice speaking Spanish with my classmates, even though I do have opportunities outside of class to practice with people around me.

How has the virus (and the precautions taken to prevent it spreading) impacted your daily life?

My boyfriend’s family is in Mexico and the border is closed.  The fear of the virus and the bans against gatherings haven’t stopped the political work that we’re doing but has presented some challenges.

How worried are you about getting the virus?

I’m not worried.  I am lucky – young, healthy currently, and have insurance. I practice good hygiene (hand washing, disinfecting things, etc.) and eat well, so I’m just continuing that.

Do you know anyone who has gotten COVID-19?

I know of people who have, but no one really close to me.

Are you staying in? What are you doing to pass the time?

I am not staying in.  I talk to people about the rent strike & defending each other against evictions, and also talk to my neighbors & other folks in this city about the issues generally going on right now.

Most knew even before the crisis that a society where profit comes first is never for the average person, but this has made it even more clear and the conditions are good for organizing & fighting back.  I don’t see things going back to normal, or people going back to the everyday struggle they’ve been dealing with, and I think that’s positive.

Are you going out? Where do you go and what is it like?

Yes.  Stores to essential items, and the organizing I described above. Everything moves a little slower with long lines and some shortages but it’s alright.

What is giving you hope and/or strength right now?

All the people around me, and their resilience, creativity, & combativeness.  The knowledge that strikes and rebellion of all kinds are happening the world over and that seeing things for what they are pushes people to fight for a needed overhaul of society where working people run things themselves & aren’t exploited like they are now.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about what you’re feeling or experiencing right now?

I see a lot of pressure to stay inside and isolate, to feel guilty that we – especially college students who are mostly (not all) young & healthy – could be carriers, that it’s individuals’ fault for spreading the virus.  This keeps a lot of people who would be angry and taking to the streets right now about everything going on with employment and conditions in general at home, hurting alone & unable to really fight back through a zoom call or email petition.

But it’s not our fault. Governments across the world won’t prioritize people’s health – they didn’t address the virus earlier, address people’s health needs in general so there weren’t so many vulnerable to it (including everyone being  housed & fed), and prepare hospitals, supplies, and staff.  They don’t because none of this is profitable.

State officials and rich folks are also pushing the idea that we’re all in the same boat with coronavirus, which is just straight up false.  We don’t all have the same control over the response to the pandemic or the ability to take off work, get items delivered, access health care & testing, etc. that they have.

I experience some frustration with how they have had some success in turning the virus into an individual issue with the only advice being to “stay at home,” and blaming all the other economic issues on it.  I think we can take people’s concerns about the virus seriously & do our best to make it so people with health concerns can stay at home while not giving up the fight against capitalism, the root cause of both economic issues & a health system that isn’t made to serve people, a fight which does require people that can being out & about.