I look back at my COVID journal from a year ago. May 27, 2020. “Crossed the 100,000 mark today. That’s sad. Tara is legitimately convinced that this fall and winter the second surge of COVID will be even worse in the US.”
Tara turned out to be absolutely right, and to a degree that probably few people – including myself – could have comprehended at that time.
May 28. “Coffee shops don’t let you use your own travel mugs anymore. You must use a brand new disposable cup with every order. All these stores that have banned single-use plastic bags are back to using them everywhere again, because grocery store baggers will not touch someone’s personal shopping bag.”
This made me sad. All the progress we had made for the Earth. Now a step backward to single-use disposable items again.
May 29. “Just got my bees!! Talked a little with the bee guy. I asked if there were any problems with COVID and he immediately said he didn’t care at all and didn’t listen to anything about it. He proudly told me that he hadn’t watched the news in a year, and hadn’t changed a single thing about his life. He said that because he was young he knew he was fine. He said his girlfriend was scared because she watched the news, so he told her to quit watching the news. I asked if he knew that 100,000 people in the US had died from it. He didn’t know that. He said just people with heart and lung problems right? I said no, young healthy people too, kids, and babies. He was really surprised. I think he believed me. I hope so.”
To this day I continue to be surprised about people who weren’t paying enough attention to the news to know the latest facts about the coronavirus. I was listening more intently than ever to COVID-19 stuff – because I was so worried. Somehow, I missed another gigantic story until it had already begun. Read ahead with caution. A year ago today I confronted American systemic racism and my own part in it.
May 31. “David and Sara mentioned the riots. I had sort of heard about it but didn’t pay much attention. Trevor Noah had had a bit about the video from Christopher Cooper that he felt was the kick off to the rage regarding George Floyd. It’s only weeks after the news blew up about Ahmaud Arbery getting shot while jogging. That evening I began listening to news reports around the country.”
June 1. “First thing this morning I spent two hours researching racism and how to be anti-racist, as a white person. I got pretty upset. I watched all the horrible videos except George Floyd. The Arbery one was supposed to be terribly graphic, but you can’t see anything. The video waggles all around, and at the time of the shot, is not showing anything but a parked pickup truck, and at the time Arbery falls, nothing is shown, and at the end, when he’s supposedly on the ground, you can’t see anything. He’s not in the camera’s view. So…that’s really not so shocking to me. I’m not exactly sure what people are reacting to when they say the video is graphic, aside from the fact that a Black man was killed so heinously. Well, I got that kick in the stomach just listening to a podcast tell me what happened. My heart was breaking for the rioters who feel they have no other choice to express themselves and be heard. I can’t imagine that level of disenfranchisement.”
I still haven’t watched the George Floyd video, even now, in 2021. I’ve heard it described often enough, and I don’t think I could bear it.
June 3. “It’s early morning and for the third day in a row as I catch up on the news, my chest is aching. I hurt so much I’m practically in tears. I posted a couple of days ago on Facebook the NYT piece from Christopher Cooper’s sister, because I know how sensitive my audience can be. The video of the white woman who intentionally lies to police because she knows in her gut that a white woman saying a black man is attacking her will instantly get a reaction, cannot be interpreted any other way. I wanted my Facebook friends to see it and think about it. Maybe they looked at it, maybe they didn’t, but there were three likes and no comments. Recently I posted a photo of a postcard I had coloured: 39 likes. A 10-second video of a caterpillar: 23 likes and 9 comments. In other words, almost no one is willing to engage on the topic of accountability.”
“Yesterday in a moment of agony, I updated my fb status to say how sad it is that our country abuses people till they feel like rioting is the only way to be heard. Aunt Judy commented, to say “But but but, they destroyed the property of innocent people! Some of those property owners were black!” And Frank posted a link to a video of a black woman going off on protestors, giving them shit for tearing up a poor neighborhood, as if to say “See? Even Black people don’t like it.” White, privileged people are shocked and confused: how does spray painting a bodega stop racism? THAT’S ENTIRELY THE POINT! Some Black people in America are in SO MUCH PAIN that this is the only thing that’s left to them. Their actions are not based in calm thoughtfulness and careful planning, their actions are based in pure, blind desperation. THE REASON WE DON’T UNDERSTAND IS BECAUSE WE ARE WHITE, AND PRIVILEDGED.”
“How do I start a conversation with people who are good-hearted, who want to do good, who do care about others, and yet have no idea whatsoever that they have a blind spot? How do I convince these genuinely good people that they are unknowingly doing a tremendous amount of damage? It seems impossible. I am so sad. I am lost. This is my beautiful country and my beautiful family and neighbors just can’t open their minds and consider that there is more to understand than what they already understand. I love them and they are breaking my heart.”
I firmly believe that humans are ultimately good. 2020 was so hard, and we are still feeling the repercussions of amplified racial tensions that include even more targeted groups now, such as people with Asian heritage. It is while we make our way through wrenching pain and crises of self, that we grow. The man who killed George Floyd has been found guilty of murder. That is a step to help force the hands of administrators who can reform police departments. I have finally had the presence of mind to feel compassion for the police officers who have suffered in past 12 months. They want a solution, too. Maybe today enough of us agree there is a problem, to begin working on the solutions. Or maybe not. I remain cynical and sad and yet that tiny fire of Hope still burns.