There is no doubt that life has changed dramatically. Prior to this, I went to a large African convenience store. On a good day it’s busy, but in the midst of a global pandemic, it was heaving with people.
Now identified as key workers, retail staff have to deal with the physical and mental exhaustion of work, the attitude that members of the public will throw at them, and the panic of not having anything themselves. At the till, I asked the woman working there, Kemi, if she had managed to buy anything for herself yet and she told me, “To be honest, I wouldn’t know what to buy or where to start. Sitting here I’m just sad.” I asked her what happened and she told me, “I was supposed to travel to Nigeria tomorrow and now I’m stuck here.”
Nigeria had just announced a travel ban on countries, including the UK. Really, I didn’t know what to say apart from express my condolences. She told me that her initial fear was that she would be stuck in Nigeria after her three month trip that she now couldn’t take. Her kids still live with her mother in Nigeria. Beyond the emotional, I imagine that the financial hit she had just taken was weighing heavily on her mind, as well as the need to provide while staying safe and sane.
Like many other black women, Kemi is facing the daunting reality of the economic ramifications of this virus. Already underpaid in comparison to our white counterparts and statistically more likely to be misdiagnosed by our doctors, the anxiety that the virus is causing is nothing short of overwhelming.