Donald was proud of his caregiving role. His mom had raised him and his siblings on her own, while battling a chronic illness. Now he saw his turn to step up for her. “My mom’s a trooper,” he told me, “and we be troopin’ with her.”
Donald was enrolled in a training course to get his GED and become a certified truck driver. I asked him who would care for his mom when he started work. His sister, currently finishing school and working part-time, would step back up, he said, and their aunt, and the same family members who helped out now would help in different ways, when he went on the road. It was more important that he be working. After all, Donald asked me, “What would you rather be doing than making money?”
This was not a man who devalued care — he took pride in it — but his caregiving didn’t pay. Making money was paramount to putting him in a position where he was truly, as he put it to me, “able to take care of something” for his family, should trouble arise.
Millions of caregivers live in poverty or on the knife’s edge of it, while their labor allows millions of others to make money without sacrificing the well-being of their own families.
Our country’s structures for provisioning care have both preyed on and perpetuated systemic inequalities, like racism, sexism, and the hard national inequalities of borders and immigration policy.
“Since the pandemic, individuals are coping with so many different forms of stress that might be activating a compassionate part of them that they...