Doing Our ‘Heroes’ and Ourselves a Disservice


Rann Miller

By Rann Miller | Guest Blogger AC JosepH Media

Both clinical and non-clinical hospital and assisted living staff in hospitals deserve all of our admiration, appreciation and prayers for working each day in challenging conditions amid this pandemic. however, we’re doing them a disservice when we call them heroes.

It’s not that the act of working in dangerous conditions, not of their doing, isn’t heroic. But referring to them as heroes ignores their victimization. These folks are victims of leadership at the federal level that is incompetent at best; evil at worse.

It’s documented that the Trump Administration has failed in every way possible to prepare for a pandemic they knew was coming. Their failure to act is primarily responsible for why the United States is number one worldwide in cases of and deaths from the Coronavirus. It has left governors scrambling for resources; competing with each other, and in some cases the federal government, for PPE to support its hospitals, assisted living facilities and those who work in them.

In the meantime, medical professionals have sounded the alarm that they are without the equipment that they need to treat patients and protect themselves. Some are dying due to the dangers of their work; the trauma of working has led an ER doctor to commit suicide.

Non-clinical low-wage staff i.e. maintenance, food-service workers, custodians and etc., must not be forgotten. They face a double-edge sword for risk. If they work, they are at risk for contracting the Coronavirus and possibly spreading the virus amongst their family. If they don’t work, its probably because they either been furloughed or laid-off, which poses a financial crisis they and their family can ill-afford.

Many of these low-wage workers are Black and Latinx and without the luxury of working from home. Conversely, the Black and Latinx community is underrepresented in the clinical fields.

These folks are victims of a harm that was preventable.

However, victims are often ridiculed for appearing weak or as though they pitiful; they are told to not be a victim or to refrain from playing the victim. A victim is often thought of as looking to blame others for their own problem(s) or as someone unwilling to take personal responsibility for rectifying a wrong done within their life.

The reality is that victim is one who has had an injustice done to them.

Whether one was raped, robbed or abandoned, a victim is one who is wronged in some way and they are owed a remedy for the wrong done. Medical professionals and support staff were done wrong. The lack of preparedness and sheer incompetence of the federal government as it relates to the Coronavirus has put hospitals and assisted living facilities in the position of being ill-equipped, overtaxed and placed workers in danger of their own medical or financial crisis stemming from this pandemic.

Nevertheless, these individuals go to work each day, and we, the American public, call them heroes. We salute them when we see them, our politicians shout them out during television interviews, law enforcement welcome them to work with a rousing applause of thanks, and some of us bang pots and pans in salute when we see them.

But there is something many of us aren’t doing. We’re not asking why those who responsible for putting these folks in this predicament did so; nor are we holding those accountable for rectifying the injustice done to these workers and to us, the public.

Why aren’t we paying those “essential workers” who cook, clean and serve to meet our conveniences a living wage?

Rather than speak truth to power and demand it back, some of us are resigned to being dumped on by those in power and finding solidarity with those who must also dig from the dung heaped upon them. Rather than coalesce to demand better work conditions from our employers, we remain divided and choose to point figures at each other as though we are the cause of company policies and procedures that harm us.

For example, only now when forced to work, whether at our work locations or at home, while overseeing the remote learning of our children, are some Americans beginning to appreciate the work of educators. Traditionally, educators are questioned as to whether they deserved their inexpensive quality healthcare and summers off. When on strike for better pay and work conditions, they’re called selfish.

The truth is that workers have more in common with each other than they do with corporate CEO’s and corporate stakeholders. The vast majority of Americans are workers and yet many of us do not challenge a system based on our exploited production. Some of us just want to survive while there are those who believe that they too can become capitalists.

Is this why we refrain from wrestling with our own victimhood as a result of the harm imposed upon us because of capitalism? Is this why we project onto medical professionals and support staff the label of “hero” as opposed to “victim?”

Are we attempting to save them from the tragedy that awaits their demands for justice when delivered hopelessness? Or is it that calling them heroes absolves us from fighting on their behalf to procure the justice they were denied?

We call them heroes because to acknowledge them as victims of a harm done requires that we be invested in their receiving justice and that may actually cost us something. By failing to acknowledge one’s victimhood, it facilitates our divestment from their humanity; allowing us the ability to move forward with our own lives. Because only our life is what’s important to us.

Our nation’s White Anglo-Saxon Protestant roots is foundational to the popular idea that being a victim is a sin and not rewarded by God. But it’s simply a copout so that racial capitalists can absolve themselves from their own sins while those surviving within the system can justify their desire to be racial capitalists themselves.

Many have subscribed to this brand of pseudo-empowerment whereby one feigns strength from adapting to injustices we see and/or experience. It’s a coping mechanism that frees us from the responsibility and selflessness of standing up and fighting back. Failing to acknowledge the victimhood within a heroic act isn’t shining a light on the best of who we are. It simply dims the light on the best that we can become.

Bio: Rann Miller directs the 21st Century Community Learning Center, a federally funded after-school program located in southern New Jersey. He spent years teaching in charter schools in Camden, New Jersey. He is the creator, writer, and editor of the Official Urban Education Mixtape Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @UrbanEdDJ.  

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