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  • Siria Contreras

The Injustice of Equality



photo by Rosie Kerr


For the first time since we were forced to reimagine our daily lives and adjust in record speed to aide in lessening the threat of contracting COVID-19 and to increase the safety of others, the inevitable moment finally came when I broke down and cried.

Many of you have probably by now already had this sort of release, perhaps more than once as communities and households find themselves facing various challenges, experiencing a variety of frustrations, and social media and “news” sources don’t help.


I don’t tend to feel sorry for myself all that often as I know just how lucky I am, it is generally for others that I will feel moved enough to break down and cry. While I feel a great amount of compassion for others, I tend to be more logical than emotional in a crisis. Being solution oriented, I’d rather expend energy on trying to fix an issue versus falling into an abyss of what ifs. Generally, I can also remain levelheaded as well as keep a sense of humor and stay in general good spirits as I know the importance of helping to uplift morale during difficult times.


However, the human story will get to you at one point or another.


Typically, for me those moments come when I know I cannot do something to help or lessen the pain for another. Weeks ago, I was first moved after seeing coverage of the tragic situations that Ecuadorian residents find themselves in, with no dignified way to bury their loved ones (much less dispose of corpses). Death rates are happening at such rapid rates that they cannot be kept up with and families are being forced to either keep the bodies within their homes or to put them out on the streets. There still doesn’t appear to be a long-term solution for, as countries and cities are working around the clock focusing on the living vs. the dead. Generally, my mind can work quickly to at the very least think of some recommendations or resources to share, however for this issue I knew that i did not have the mental bandwidth at the time to take the time to dive deeper into the problem. Even then though, typically that could’ve been a story that might’ve moved me to tears but I happened to read it at a time when I was highly focused on both work but also on the PPE and food insecurity issues in my spare time.


What finally did it for me was hearing about the passing of a friend’s father-in-law. The thought of this friend’s daughter no longer having her grandfather in her life. Sure, we lose people all of the time, as we’re all only mortal--and sure, since the virus became the star in this crazy Sci-Fi blockbuster that we’re all co-starring in, there have been more and more acquaintances and friends that we’ve learned of have contracted the virus--most of them surviving, but others like so many recent names who were not so lucky.


What really got to me though was how unfair this all really is. As some protest irresponsibly for temporary relief to their first-world problems (I know that these problems can also be devastating to some) or others disregard the advisement and pleas of frontline healthcare workers and local governments to stay home to avoid endangering others.


The terrible irony is that the unfairness lies in equality.

At this moment in time and perhaps the only time in many of our lifetimes, we are all equal in our vulnerability and susceptibility to contract the same thing that may kill us.


Sure, some of us have more advantages and privilege that may keep us safe and healthy but if we all were out not abiding by rules in our communities living life as we normally would a tech titan is just as prone to contract this virus as is the janitor of his building.


That is not however, the injustice that brought me to tears. What did it was again because of this inequality and the lack of discrimination of good vs bad of this virus my friend’s family was directly impacted. A friend who does so much good himself. In fact, at the onset of this shelter-at-home period in California, L.A. in particular, I had immediately called on this friend and a few others to enlist help in thinking through a large scale way of tracking PPE supply and demand.


As I activated friends in 3D printing, in fashion, in production to help provide PPE materials I wanted to know where the biggest needs were across the country so that supply could be filled based on priority levels. While he continues to work for the broadcast network where we first met and worked together and as his full plate like mine was likely now a buffet with everything moving online, he was all in with questions and thoughts never saying “Sorry Siria, I’m too busy with work and family right now to help”, a statement that I absolutely would’ve been ok with, but instead he willingly lent me his engineering/developer brain as a thought partner.


This wasn’t the first time I’d called on this friend. Back to what now feels like eons ago at the start of 45s term (has this really only been one term?) when the Immigration/Travel/Muslim ban was our crisis du jour (apologies for the cynicism) and the ACLU had called on me and a colleague to enlist our aide in bringing a bi-coastal

Entertainment Industry fundraiser to life in support of the attorneys and displaced travelers. We moved quickly and while we halted the L.A. version from fruition when the Weinstein scandal broke, the New York telethon pushed forward with Tom Hanks and Tina Fey as the face of it, sharing hosting duties. As I rallied some of my entertainment-industry colleagues together, two of the first people I’d called on at that time were a couple of my ex-colleagues, now the leadership, at Variety who jumped on board in full support as the media sponsors well as this friend for the backend work. I recall being at work at CBS still, in the middle of award season and Winter TCAs planning-- during a busy time for all of us to say the least and google chatting with this friend, then colleague, about the ACLU activations and again at that time, he didn’t even hesitate or say “Siria, I’m slammed I’d love to help but I can’t.


No. Instead, even though it was in the conceptual stage , he said, “I’m in. What do you need?” and together with other friends, we did manage to make even a small difference in the world at that time and many times since then.


So, when I saw the news that his father-in-law had passed away from COVID-19 complications, I couldn’t hold back the tears. This wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair that someone who was always up for doing so much good in the world should have to suffer this type of loss.


I know that no matter how many brilliant minds and capable individuals are working on this pandemic this is still early in the number of losses that we’ll see before this virus is managed and I am certain that although this was the first time it likely won’t be the last time that I break down and cry and that is ok. If you’ve also experienced your own emotional roller-coasters from apprehension to fear, anger, despair, uncertainty, depression or sadness know that many others are as well. You are not alone in your ability to feel and emote.

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