Proximity after the pandemic


With so many of us growing weary of social distancing, I took some time to write about the need to be proximate and more caring on the other side of this pandemic.

Social distancing isn’t new. This type of it is.

“It’s obvious that Americans are growing weary of social distancing.

Beaches and boardwalks are opening, churches are looking to return to in-person services, and so many want to return to life as we knew it.

But the end of social distancing so many are longing for is really just an end to one type of social distancing.

We want to once again be close to our family members, our friends, our coworkers, and the fellow patrons of the establishments we frequent.

We want to be close to those in our self-selected and segregated circles.

But a return to normal, if we learn nothing from this pandemic, also means a return to a life where we have always been socially distant from those our society renders invisible.

Let’s take our socially distant relationship with the essential workers who toil to bring us our food as a prime example.

We love our fresh fruit. We love our organic meat.

And by default, we love the distance between us and the workers that keep their bodies bent at 90-degree angles all day under the scorching sun to pick us the freshest of strawberries.

Growers and labor contractors estimate that nearly 75 percent of crop hands in America, more than one million, are undocumented immigrants.
We love that we do not have to be proximate enough to know that “poultry processing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.”

Our long-standing social distance insulates us from the pain, exploitation, and vulnerability that fuels our food. The same goes for the pain endured by the immigrant women cleaning our offices and the places where we shop.

But as much as this pandemic has exacerbated our society’s injustices, it has also exposed inequity and awakened our senses to our “inescapable network of mutuality.”

This means that here in Delaware, the immigrant workers getting sick with coronavirus at rapid rates in chicken plants in Sussex County, ranked first among all United States counties in meat chicken production, are now seen by our elected officials as intertwined with the fate of our entire state.

But we get to decide now if we are merely concerned about the virus or if we are truly concerned about the vulnerable.

While so many in our society are hurting now, undocumented immigrants are among the most vulnerable.

Despite paying taxes, they are not eligible for CARES Act stimulus funding and they cannot receive unemployment benefits to help them sustain their families through this crisis.

Many continue to work while they’re sick because our society cares more about what they can produce than making sure they’re protected.

If you want to help forge a new future, please consider donating to the Delaware Immigrant Fund (

We announced the fund last Friday and have already raised more than $12,000 from 101 donors.

I am hopeful we will see a closer and more loving existence on the other side of this pandemic.

While I’m looking forward to our economy and schools opening again, I can’t wait to see our hearts open to a more inclusive and supportive society.”

In case you missed it:

America’s students need adults to center them amid coronavirus pandemic

The Silver Lining in Coronavirus Is the Opportunity for Black Innovation in Education

More important than ever we hear students’ voices

Atnre Alleyne is the founder and Executive Director of the DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now and the co-founder of TeenSHARP, a college access organization. He blogs at and and is based in Wilmington, Delaware.
DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now was launched in 2017 as a nonprofit education advocacy organization to empower, mobilize and collaborate with everyday Delawareans to advocate for a high-quality education system.
DelawareCAN advocates for the success of every Delaware student, from pre-K through college and career. We improve policy to help all students thrive and share promising practices and stories to demonstrate that all kids CAN succeed.
DelawareCAN empowers, mobilizes and collaborates with everyday Delawareans to advocate for a high-quality education system.