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We shouldn’t want to go back to “normal”

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

It’s understandable that many of us are longing for things to go back to “normal.” After all, our country and our personal lives have been turned upside down by the fury of COVID, which has meant, among other things, job-loss, financial hardships, illness, and extreme anxiety for many. In addition, the murders of Admaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd in 2020 set off worldwide protests, civil unrest, and even violence. Indeed, 2020 was a year to forget. But to try and forget this year would be a mistake.

2020 was a clarion warning, a wake-up call, a kick to the gut. Seeing the glaring displays of heightened racial tension, increase in hate crimes and public confrontations between races was like ripping the scab off of a deep wound that never healed.

But weren't we supposed to be the country that had overcome its wicked past when it came to race relations? Didn't we have a two-term black president? And yet the media has been awash with images of people marching in the streets, confrontations between police and protesters, along with scenes of burning buildings and more controversial deaths at the hands of law enforcement. We have been warned. 2020 revealed the hidden monster that we wanted to believe didn't exist. But like most monsters, racism resided in the darkness and shadows of society.

Walking into the light

Now with the vaccine and a new administration, some are seeing a flickering light at the end of a very long tunnel. However, there is no vaccine for racism. Instead, we must find a treatment for this special kind of insidious pandemic. 2020 was a year filled with symptoms of this ever-present disease. Do not forget the stomach-turning emotions we felt as we watched the life being squeezed out of George Floyd for eight minutes. Do not forget the racially-charged conflict between blacks and whites on American streets. Don't forget the racist comments that bubbled up on social media, with some of the comments coming from people you thought you knew. Now, as the trial for the suspect in the Floyd death begins, the nation braces for another possible storm.

The Floyd murder was the tip of the iceberg

The murder of George Floyd was merely that well-placed spark that ignited the smoldering kindling also known as systemic racism. It permeates our country and takes on many forms. African Americans and BIPOC have disproportionately been victimized by it in various ways. There are micro-aggressions, hate groups, police violence, racial profiling, and a justice system that has produced alarming incarceration rates for black males. These problems have been with us for decades. The George Floyd murder just brought it gushing to the surface.

So, rather than forget about 2020, let’s learn the hard lessons that it offered. We have work to do. It's time to talk and listen, to learn and get out of our comfort zones. We must have uncomfortable conversations.

Remember, getting back to “normal” would mean burying and ignoring the realities of racism that affect all of us in some way. It has been trying, but the surreal and unnerving year that is was 2020 also gives up the opportunity to look in the mirror, to see warts and other signs of a disease which like an infection surreptitiously invades the body and destroys it from within.

Time to treat the disease of racism and create a new normal.

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