S.E. Williams | Executive Editor
“We hold tightly to the hope, the belief, the conviction there exists an opportunity for a better way of life, a better community, a better nation, a better world—better days.”
To say 2020 was a year of challenges would be an understatement, especially to those who lost loved ones to the deadly coronavirus.
COVID-19 has robbed many of the once innocent belief that our institutions, preparedness and leadership would propel the nation and by proxy, the world, through most any crisis, and COVID-19 would be no exception. This year has taught otherwise.
It is a lesson minorities in this country have known for generations because the government has consistently failed us; now, however, the suffering is widespread, and government’s failure is more apparent than ever to more people than ever.
Yet, despite the painful and grotesque loss of loved ones in the most heartbreaking way, too many locally and around the country, continue clinging to business over life, capitalism over COVID-19, and death over life, as people continue to suffer and die.
Everyone understands the needs of small business owners and employees to be able to work and provide for their families. Yet, in a country with unlimited resources whose leaders prefer appeasing the desires of the wealthy over all else, it is a matter of leadership and choice and not providing a viable solution to this dilemma is also a choice—more money could be allocated toward the goal of supporting business owners and their employees without risking lives, but the government prefers not to. Instead, leaders have adopted an unspoken policy of acceptable loss that is unfathomable.
2020 offered hard lessons, yet during every storm there is hope. COVID-19 treatments have improved as those in medicine learned more about the virus and how to treat it and vaccines are now being deployed with the promise of constructive improvements toward eventual virus containment though much remains unknown about long-term side effects of the vaccine or the illness.
In addition to hardship and death, the virus helped shine a spotlight on systemic inequities and inspired a new group of warriors of all races, creeds and colors to join the movement for change. Whether showing up at the polls in record numbers, funding minority nonprofits, supporting minority-owned businesses, aggressively evaluating data to leverage for change, pushing for new/changed laws as it relates to criminal justice reform and policing, declarations from municipalities, businesses, nonprofits and others acknowledging racism as a public health crisis, and understanding more about the impact of adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress on minorities, etc.
COVID-19 has also revealed the partisanship of many local leaders in select cities and at the county level who argue against placing the health and well-being of local constituents above the concerns of their financial backers, usually couched in the feigned desire to protect mom and pop businesses, even as these same leaders in some instances have failed to protect employees in their municipal workplaces. The same failure holds true for those employed in local jails and the inmates who are at the mercy of local sheriffs who have failed to protect them from this deadly virus.
It is not surprising so many inmates and jail employees have fallen ill due to COVID-19 considering sheriffs in both Riverside and San Bernardino are in the mold of others around the country who feel they are the ultimate authority in their counties and do not need to comply with orders from the governor.
Regardless of their failures one thing is certain, just as they were elected, when the time comes, they can be replaced by candidates more in alignment with the desires of all the people they serve, not just those with the biggest wallets.
As we look to the future it is important to recognize what the collective trauma we experienced in 2020 does not have to keep us mired in dysfunction in 2021.
Certainly, the virus has changed us, demands for police and criminal justice reforms have challenged us, calls for systemic and institutional equity propels us and experiencing life’s final common denominator on such a massive scale should unite us.
Like generations faced with similar challenges throughout history, the question is whether we will choose to remain in the hopeless muck and mire of 2020 or reach with hope for better days to come?
As the great jazz lyricist and vocalist Dianne Reeves said, “[A]ll the things you ask, you will know someday but you have got to live in a patient way. God put us here by fate and by fate that means better days… we are all moons in the dark of night, ain’t no morning gonna come ’til the time is right.”
2021 marks a new beginning the right time for change but we must choose to make it so.
As for me, I choose hope in the better days I know are coming and I am reaching for them with both hands. We laid a foundation for change in November. Now, it is up to us to keep working for a better tomorrow.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.
S.E. Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.