One of my favorite Internet memes already this year is of a red-suited clown giving an orange-haired clown a tour. Above the clowns it says: “2020 showing 2021 around the workplace.”
Like most Chicagoans, I bid good riddance to 2020 on New Year’s Eve and hoped for brighter days in 2021.
I wasn’t under any illusion that the relentless clouds over our lives — coronavirus and white supremacy — would magically (poof!) disappear after a sanitized New Year’s Eve smooch between ABC7’s Janet Davies and Mark Giangreco. But optimism is perfectly understandable given all the grief and suffering of 2020.
A new year felt like it could be laundry fresh.
We’ve been told we’re at the beginning of the end of the pandemic, but for me a vaccination feels as elusive as waiting for Godot. We have a new president and our nation’s first female vice president, but millions of people continue to believe the falsehood that the election was fraudulent, and we have failed to have a peaceful transfer of power.
We watched in horror as white insurrectionists violently stormed the Capitol with Confederate flags.
To keep from crying, Black Twitter joked that the Black haircare section at Walgreen’s has more security than the Capitol.
Hello, 2021, where the stream of stress continues to roll through. Doom scrolling isn’t just about the final Trump political shenanigans, such as his administration defending slavery in a bogus 1776 Commission report released on the holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, or the Secret Service being forced to spend $3,000 a month for a toilet that agents could use while guarding Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
I’ve learned on social media of the deaths of people I cared about, including a beloved Morgan Park High School English teacher who had a big hand in my becoming a journalist. Friends of mine mourn on Facebook for people they have lost. Some of it’s coronavirus, a lot of it’s not. Heartache shadows us into 2021.
For the most part, I’ve kept steady during the pandemic, and our household has followed the rules of masks and social distancing. Nonetheless, we caught COVID-19, which proved to be an emotional experience. It was about much more than losing our senses of taste and smell.
A good friend who is a doctor told me the virus is relentless, so stop trying to figure out where I contracted it. Surviving COVID-19 hasn’t eased my anxiety, and watching people flaunt their vacations and gatherings on social media bothers me more than it probably should.
I do have a lot to be grateful for in 2021, and the horizon may be bright. But I am struggling. I miss my family and friends. Zoom calls are only so fulfilling. Illinois has suffered more than 20,000 COVID-19 deaths. Our country as a whole has suffered more than 400,000. The death counts continue to climb, and Black and Brown families are disproportionately impacted.
Last year, the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement accelerated demands for a racial reckoning. This country still believes some of its lies. And when I see white supremacy on full display, I writhe when people respond with silly chestnuts like “this isn’t America.”
The other night I dreamed that Daniel LaRusso — a character in “Cobra Kai,” a Netflix sequel to the classic 1984 movie “The Karate Kid” — asked me to enlighten him on racism and the current racial unrest. For the sake of my peace of mind, I declined. I told LaRusso that if he didn’t understand institutional racism, that was on him to fix.
I meant no offense. I don’t know LaRusso’s politics and I love the series. But that dream was completely on brand for my quarantine life: a marriage of binge-watching television while refusing requests to justify Black existence in this country.
May the year 2021 be a little less of each.
Natalie Moore is a reporter for WBEZ.org.
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