2020 is a year of tragedy, protest, and history. The year began with wildfires engulfing Australia; then, the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world. Every night for weeks, police brutality protests seized streets worldwide, starting right here in Minnesota. A contentious 2020 presidential race highlighted that the country is ideologically divided more than ever. Press called the winner of the historic election on Nov. 7, four days after the race began. Everyone feels pressure to take one of two sides. Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter. Masks save lives, or COVID-19 is a lie. Choose your America: Joe Biden or Donald Trump. States mandate varying levels of shutdown. People don’t feel safe. Mental health is suffering.
But 2020 is coming to a close. In less than two months, the clock will strike midnight and ring in 2021. What have we learned? What might be different?
Social justice isn’t peaceful or quick.
As the Black Lives Matter protests during the summer proved, social justice is painful and long. One peaceful protest won’t solve decades of racism and police brutality. A month of nightly protests, city curfews, and burned police precincts won’t come anything close to bringing social justice. But it can start the long, painful, society altering process to equality.
According to the Washington Post’s police shooting database, police have shot and killed 1353 black people since 2015. Police officers killed George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis in broad daylight. Nightly protests occurred across the world.
Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi created the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013 for nonviolent civil disobedience. Lack of social justice for people of color is not a new issue. Protests in response to the murders of people of color and their acquitted murderers are not cutting-edge anymore. The repetition of the protests and the pain it brought to Minnesota communities are unlike anything seen here. Perhaps, this is because Floyd was murdered here, but hopefully, the differences this summer will spur lasting change.
Social justice won’t be peaceful, and the process won’t be quick, but as 2020 taught us, it is essential to our community’s well-being to fight for justice.
Personal truth and untruth are not the same.
Personal truth is often linked to experience or what feels true. It is a belief, and while belief has value, it does not replace reality. Untruth is a false statement; it is not a belief; it is not scientific; it is simply not true.
Citizens speaking their truth is essential to move the United States in the direction it needs to go. To change a country, getting to the place where millions of people understand the issue at hand is necessary. But within the country, there are currently millions of people who have fallen victim to the untruth. Unfortunately, people who undermine the truth, both personal and scientific, and spread propaganda have a loud voice. In the long run, they will only cause harm.
Take into consideration COVID-19. Misinformation spreads like fire through media and conversation. Public health officials and scientists have been begging the country to wear masks since the beginning of the pandemic. Thousands of people refuse to listen to that advice and instead believe untruth and propaganda. Many people don’t know better because they’ve never been educated on reliable sources, but they decided who to choose, and many people have chosen wrong.
Respect for public health officials and understanding that they are only giving their best advice is vital to keep the public healthy. Canada is a country known for its immense care in public health and respect for officials. They have over 200,000 fewer deaths than the United States.
Prepare for the worst and expect the worst… but take action for better
As everyone knows, the world looks different in 2020. There isn’t a neighborhood in the Twin Cities without plywood covered storefronts or Justice for Floyd murals. It is nearly impossible to open a news app without reading today’s case count, hospitalizations, and deaths. After the riots associated with the Black Lives Matter protests, Washington D.C. boarded up the city to prepare for events after the election. Numerous buildings in the Twin Cities did the same.
It seems as if everyone has lost trust in society. There’s an expectation that if something doesn’t go a group’s way, violence will ensure. A city will be burned again. Prior to 2020, it was not natural to expect nation-wide riots after an event. There was the expectation of something better from society. 2020 taught us that society is broken and violent.
Cities expected the worst situation for the aftermath of the election, and they prepared for their expectations. Stores were boarded with plywood, barricades around government buildings, and increased security made cities feel like a political war zone.
It will take time to forgive and heal from the violence throughout the country the past year, so it’s expected for the country to prepare mentally and physically for the worst, most violent situations. Don’t dismiss positive things as fiction; view them as progress and motivation to continue to speak up, change, and shape the country for the future.