Today this blog is mutating. The ‘novel’ coronavirus threat is commingling with an older persistent threat, which demands to be heard.
It’s easy for many of us to hide out in quarantine. Pull the covers over our head until it passes. It’s a bit harder to work on your “super powers” of patience, gratitude and kindness. Some days it feels almost within grasp, but there is a measurable slippage — as noted in a recent survey* on the level of depression and anxiety. But still, we have tools and tips on how to navigate these waters. We will overcome.
It gets a little harder when other threats start circling over head like vultures waiting for you to collapse. Will these other threats swoop down to feed on us? A recession, a direct hit hurricane, or a surge in the virus. These inject worry and fretting, but we come together to press on. These threats come and go, they’re not continuous — you get to breathe in between them.
Some threats never go away
All this felt manageable until a week ago, when I was forcibly reminded of a threat that never goes away for many of our brothers and sisters. The threat of racism. They never get to breathe easy between events that are often hidden from view. In this case a man’s breath was literally taken away — out in the open in front of several bystanders. A white man with power perpetrated an unthinkable fatal indignity on a black man …
This is not an outlier, not a first time, not even a surprise. It was the match dropped into a pile of kindling that has been growing over too many years to count. The list of names and incidents stretches deep into our history. And the unequal impacts of the coronavirus on communities of color has piled on even more.
George Floyd’s murder felt like a direct assault on every one of us. We have all been wounded and diminished by this. A deep sadness pours out of me for a world where onlookers don’t stop it — they video it, because that’s their only recourse. I quickly leap from sad to furious.
How can anyone be ok?
I‘m hearing my “Black Colleagues aren’t ok” — of course they aren’t ok, how could they be?! How could anyone be ok?!
I don’t need to spend too long wondering how we got to this place. It’s staring us in the face — if we care to look. What’s more surprising is that we don’t have more eruptions of outrage than we do. I don’t feel qualified to dig very deep into the larger systemic issues, but …
… What I do wonder about is what is my role in this? What am I doing to propagate a society in which this can happen? Don’t I vote to change policy, elect just legislators? How am I complicit? What are the unconscious things I do to aggravate the situation? I try to listen, to educate myself, to ask questions, challenge myself … but that feels ineffective and weak when I look at the face of that policeman in the video.
Will this threat be handled or vanished?
This virus will surely pass over. The numbers will eventually go down. We will integrate it’s threat into our lives and we will carry on mostly as before — after we’ve exhausted ourselves talking about how things are different.
What will it be like on the other side of the George Floyd incident? Will we simply integrate this story into the collection of unjust, unpunished crimes against our fellow man? Or will some real change result from the public outrage? Will the threat of a repeat incident vanish underground for some, and seep deeper into the psyche for others?
Will we carry on mostly as before? I fear we might — after the rage is spent and the protesters have gone home.
I’m not ok about that either.
*the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) partnered with the Census Bureau on an experimental data system called the Household Pulse Survey