We have to learn something from 2020.

Written by: Heather Aliano

By: Heather Aliano

Welcome to Polarization in a Pandemic, a blog series on how Americans across the country are impacted differently by the Coronavirus. This first post examines the intersection of Coronavirus and racism. 

2020 is already being called the worst year ever. Our newspaper headlines read like something out of a dystopian novel, and it’s easy to want to shut the book and put this year behind us.

The year is only half over, and it’s too soon to call 2020 a loss. Instead of throwing up our hands, and lamenting about how hard it is and how out of control we feel, we need to plant our feet and dig in deep. We must work to better understand why this year has been so painful because it is from deep discomfort that true change can come. It is up to us to make all of this count – the isolation of the pandemic, the weeks of protest and calls for justice, the realization that our country’s obsession with busy-ness and business is unsustainable. It is up to us to learn from this pain now so that as we face the next six months, and celebrate the midnight countdown to 2021 we can arrive in that new year knowing that change is on the horizon.

It is uncomfortable but necessary work. We cannot ignore our nation’s dark history. We want to say “we are all in this together.” But are we? We are all facing the same virus, but we are not all experiencing the pandemic in the same way. It’s hard to compare experiences when we live different lives and have access to different resources.

The coronavirus pandemic has magnified the broken systems and inequalities that we have ignored for far too long. Black and brown communities are falling ill and dying at higher rates than other groups, and we owe it to these communities to understand why. This isn’t a statistical blip. The very fabric of our society designed this outcome.

Our nation has repeatedly and systematically worked to hurt communities of color. We drew red lines around their neighborhoods, cutting them off from funding and resources. We tied education and school funding to property taxes, creating an ever-growing gap between the well off and low-income. We built landfills, power plants, and factories in these neighborhoods, poisoning the air, the land, and the residents. 

Again and again, we have told the lie that health, wellness, and success are tied only to hard work, so we can pat ourselves on the back when we succeed — yes, personal responsibility matters — but it isn’t enough when the system is stacked against you. We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering we see nationwide this year. We cannot separate the pandemic from the protests as if they are two isolated problems.

The reality is that the pain and anguish we see on the faces of protestors — protestors who come from every walk of life, every race, every faith tradition, every political party — is not just because George Floyd was murdered. We are mourning as a nation, not just this injustice, but the deep brokenness that pervades our society that we must heal.

After centuries of pain, it is understandable that we have found ourselves in this place. The wounds are deep and the fight is personal. This is not a temporary problem. Even after the protestors go home, when #blacklivesmatter stops trending, and the news stops talking about George Floyd, the pain and damage will persist.

We want to believe that this pandemic can bring us together, but it’s obvious that we will have to be brave enough to tackle the causes of our pain and division in order to move forward. We cannot ignore the call and pretend that the pandemic or the protests occur in a silo.

At the One America Movement, we believe that we can heal our divisions if we are willing to put in the work. Over the next few weeks, we are going to share the stories, experiences, and data needed to examine how polarization continues to be an issue during this pandemic, and what factors are causing the greatest divides.

We invite you to share your experiences with the coronavirus and how your community has been impacted. Comment below, or email us at heather@oneamericamovement.com to tell your story.

Photo from Canva

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