2020. Although for many of us it was one of the worst years of our lives, it has taught us a lot about the world. Here are some of the events that for many of have taught us a lot:
The Covid-19 pandemic:
Covid-19 has exposed racial and economic inequalities in new ways. Black people have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19. They have a 4.7% higher hospitalization rate than White people according to the Mayo Clinic. The APM Research Lab reports that 1 in 800 Black people have died of Covid whereas for White people it is 1 in 1,325. Additionally, most professionals were able to keep working safely simply by opening Zoom. But, many working-class employees either lost their jobs or had to work in dangerous conditions.
Covid has also revealed the huge gap in education resources and access between wealthy and poor schools and communities. Students from poorer school districts have struggled to remain engaged in school for a multitude of reasons. Their families might not have wifi or good access to technology or they might have to take care of other family members during school hours. They also may not have a quiet place free of distractions to work. As we witnessed with the School District of Philadelphia, their schools often did not have the resources to move online quickly or to provide students with access to technology.
Another thing Covid has taught us is that Republicans want the government to have control over women’s bodies, but God forbid someone mandates that they put a piece of cloth over their face in order to save the lives of the people around them.
And yet the end of 2020 does not mean the end of Covid. We still have rough months ahead of us. Cases are higher than ever. In hospitals-- even University of Pennsylvania, the wealthiest hospital in Philly-- nurses and doctors are overwhelmed with cases. So please, continue to social distance and wear a mask over your nose and mouth, because it is more important than ever before.
The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd:
The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor this spring/summer caused a public outcry across the US. Although they were not the first or the last Black people to be murdered by the police, there is no doubt that their murders had a huge impact. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, despite the pandemic, to protest their murders. But it was not only the massive protests that changed during 2020. Businesses and large corporations started to speak out in support of Black Lives Matter, although whether they did this because they truly believed it or for public relations reasons is debatable. For example, it is quite ironic that the league that shunned and blacklisted Colin Kapernick for kneeling in support of Black Lives Matter is now able to consciously paint Black Lives Matter and End Racism on the edge of their end zones.
Even within the School District of Philadelphia community things changed this summer. People shared previously private racist, sexist, and homophobic group chats and social media posts. Individuals were exposed as having said or done horrible things. It was a shocking time for me because I prided myself in going to Central High School, a school of diversity. And although I knew there were issues with race, I did not understand how much racism was tolerated at Central and among Central students. I realized that my own White privilege kept me from seeing this. It allowed me to be proud of my “diverse” school without noticing the discrimination and racism within my school.
The 2020 Election:
Biden won the 2020 election, and every day I am grateful that on January 20th we will see the end of the Trump administration. Whether or not he will be dragged out of the White House remains to be seen (I can’t help hoping he will be). But, the fact remains that Trump could have won. He was not defeated in a landslide as predicted. In fact, in areas like Philadelphia, he did better this year than he did in 2016. 2020 has shown us how far the U.S. has to go. 74,222,958 Americans voted for a man who refused to condemn White Supremacy, mismanaged the Covid-19 pandemic, and fundamentally challenged the basis of American democracy.
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2020 started off with bushfires in Australia that killed 24 people directly and later killed 445 from smoke inhalation. The fires burned through 46 million acres, destroying entire landscapes and killing the wildlife living there. Scientists have clearly linked these fires to climate change. This hurricane season has also been record-breaking. This season there were 30 named storms, 13 of which became hurricanes. There were so many storms that the World Meteorological Organization had to venture into the Greek alphabet for names because it ran out of them. Hurricanes are becoming more frequent and more dangerous. Despite efforts by many to deny the reality of climate change, climate change and its consequences are becoming more and more evident.
2020 has been a devastating year but it has also created a space for activism and clarity. In 2021 we must take what we learned this year and continue to call out injustices and stand up for what’s right.