By Morgan Jackson
My life seems to be an Octavia Butler novel, a work of fiction that blends both science and race. Every day I am awakened with a new statistic, and reminded of the blind spots that reveal raw, unhinged discrimination. This pandemic seems so bizarre and unreal until I venture into a sparsely stocked supermarket where I am welcomed by a sea full of masks. It is then when I cry, cry as a rejection of this new normal.
I often run to clear my head. It is relaxing to be able to focus on a singular aspect of my mundane routine for prolonged periods of time. During these runs, my mom usually makes me bring my phone and I never thought much about it. After a while it became a reflex where my mother wanted to know where I am for some vague nondescript reason. However, with the news of Ahmuad Arbery I can see why it was especially important for her to know where I am at all times. It was something so unforeseen, so unfathomable, yet very personable to my own life choices. Incidents like these have never been rare, but I was too young to grasp the shooting of Trayvon Martin when it made international headlines. I reflect upon the naiveté of my younger self, thinking that he must have done something bad or something must have called for this aggravated hate killing. It cannot possibly be because of his skin color. The same skin color that I am blessed with, and the same skin color that many claim they cannot see. I wish that I could forget the past, but in the present, I can’t help but notice the parallels between two young, black men who were tragically killed for simply enjoying life, and whose deaths become a trend that quickly dies down, forgotten.
Modern day lynching’s are horrible devastating events that catch the attention of the public’s eye, which can be then used to successfully convict the murderers and hopefully open room for meaningful discussions about race. However, many of these conversations are never fully formed and many of these killings of unarmed black and brown people never result in a conviction. This lack of action is rooted in a deeper more subtle prejudice found in America’s genesis. Sadly, this prejudice is beginning to surface once more. The disparity between minority communities is more apparent than ever, especially due to the disproportionate amount of black and brown people dying. Often, I hear my parents worried voices concerned for their families whose communities that lack the resources for fighting this virus. It saddens me when I hear about families who can’t get tested or how it will be much harder for a classmate to do their schoolwork because of their unstable Wi-Fi. Incidents like these make me acutely aware of my privilege and my innocent, but ignorant perspective.
There is still so much misinformation about the virus. I remember the first time I heard about Coronavirus when my friend mentioned it to me one night while we were eating at her restaurant. Back then, I did not fully understand what was happening and never would have thought it would apply to me or my daily life. As the weeks progressed, I began to feel some anxiety about the situation, but still dismissed it as another country’s problem. It was when the bigoted whispers began to arise that it caught my attention. It was sickening to hear the amount of racism against Asians just because the virus originated in China. From my personal experience many minorities are susceptible to people associating them with a singular event or thing as a way to ostracize and stereotype them. It is incredibly debilitating and hurtful, even if it is not ill-intentioned.
In the midst of dealing with a virus that sees no color, the line defining race is clearer than ever. I should not have to worry that I might be shot running due to my race especially during a pandemic. My mother should not have to worry about whether her family members that live in Kankakee, a small impoverished but resilient town outside of Chicago will have access to coronavirus testing. We should not be concerned about how the prevalence of internalized racism might affect someone’s chance of survival or how a local restaurant may go out of business because they can’t get access to government funding to keep them afloat.
This is not a problem that can be fixed with large guns and foot soldiers. Instead we must rely on clear communication and the pooling of resources. The United States has neglected to come together at a time where many are forced to be separated. Additionally, the country continues to be divided on many levels. America is known as the home of the free. However, many are still denied basic rights as we are faced with the greatest threat to the modern world. It is not a time to play the blame game or to accuse others of stepping out of line and worrying about trivial things. To combat this virus we have to let go of our political inclinations and come together, not only with those in other countries but also at home for any hope of finally defeating this virus. We must remember we are only as strong as our weakest link.