I'm a retiree in his seventies. That may not be significant to many, since there is a bunch of us Baby Boomers around. However, in the year 2,000, when I received a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma, I expected to be dead in three to five years.
The pandemic upturned our world. Initially people around the globe experienced cascading states of panic as the virus fingered outward from its birthplace in Wuhan, China. We looked on with grim awe as the numbers of critically ill and dead grew in China, then in Italy, and then exploded like an ingloriously potent firework around the planet. Little was known about how the virus spreads and precisely how it attacks the human body. Quarantines and lock-downs were the first lines of defense against a mysterious enemy that silently stalked its prey.
Scientists, spurred by horrific death tolls, worked round the clock for six months trying to get a bead on this disease. Initially, the greatest tool they had was containment. Quarantines and lockdowns slowed the progression. Infection statistics seemed to decrease in direct proportion to the plunging worldwide economy.
Some countries fared better than others. The reasons for this disparity…
Dictionaries usually give two or more common definitions of milestone: 1) a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a place, and 2) an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development. Since mid-March, the latter has suffered from what we normally do to acknowledge noteworthy accomplishments in the lives of others. Spring is the time that we celebrate graduations from high school, college, graduate programs, medical school and more. The young, old and those at various ages in between are excited to achieve educational milestones in their lives. They’ve work hard, made sacrifices that effect their lives and others, to mark a point in their development that calls for celebration.
I was one of those odd kids growing up. My mom struggled to buy the senior ring when I was nearing the point of high school graduation. I wore the cap and gown, and I unenthusiastically participated in the hallowed ceremony of marching and receiving my diploma. But I never really had a sense that I needed the pomp and circumstance. My family enjoyed the whole thing. Later, when I went off to college, I told myself that I wouldn’t do the graduation ceremony thing, and I didn’t. It’s been so long ago that I graduated from college that, if memory serves me right, I think my degree was mailed to me. Yeah, I know, you might be saying that I denied my loved ones the opportunity to see the first in our family to attend college get his degree in a glorious graduation ceremony. We introverts do things that others can’t always understand.
As I think about my attitude regarding participating in pomp and circumstance, I must remember others don’t think the same as I. This year’s graduation season has been visited by the dark visitor sir named the Coronavirus. This creature from Friday the 13th, or some other dark and shadowy dimension, has crept unto the stage of normality just in time to disrupt so many transitional events of life: graduation ceremonies of folks who have worked hard to move onto another stage in life; the joy of playing and watching many springtime sporting event; time in parks and numerous other green spaces to enjoy the annual budding of spring colors, etc.
When given a challenge, people have this ability, this creative nature to find a way. Back in May, I was working in my front yard, and suddenly I heard the honking of horns and loud music coming down my street. I looked up and there for all eyes in the neighborhood to see was a parade of vehicles passing my house and turning into the cul-de-sac in across the way. This parade was headed toward the house of one of our neighbors to celebrate the college graduation of their daughter. The moment contained all the pomp and circumstance you would expect to see in a college campus auditorium, except the fine regalia and modestly inspiring speeches. Some of the passengers even got out of their cars and proceeded to dance in celebration of the event. One of the local television stations had assigned a photojournalist to capture the event, which was later broadcasted. The whole thing was a moment to remember, and I’m sure our young neighbor will never forget.
Humans love celebrations. Since the start of 2020, we’ve been amazingly creative in finding ways to mark milestones with appropriate celebratory actions, despite the Coronavirus.
We’ve all been a bit down, some of us because we’re so frustrated … with people who think only of themselves … with those who refuse to understand that quarantine/isolation procedures are designed to get us out of pandemics more quickly or that wearing or not wearing a mask isn’t a political statement …
Still, we see kindness out there in good samaritans, essential workers, and everyone who tries their best to keep us sane with stories, jokes, and music, and those who are there just to lend an ear to a friend. This is for them.
I’m sure those in the blogging community will know what I’m talking about when I say that transferring an idea you have to a bright screen is often quite the challenge. If you’re reading this, and you’ve ever read any of my musings, you know that I get most of my ideas for blogs from observing things around me. I had the urge to write something today, but I didn’t want to write about the stuff that’s been going on since the turn of 2020.
I don’t want to write about the Coronavirus and how it’s been wreaking havoc with lives, governmental operations, economies, and just causing everyone to look at completely different ways of how to do things in a new-normal way. The toll of sick and dead continue to rise, as governments around the world seem to be struggling in trying to figure out how to get their economies up and running full speed again.
I don’t want to talk about policing in the United States and how the live and in living color death of George Floyd at the hands of one in blue, whose job it is to serve was seen around the world squeezing the life out of Floyd’s body. Floyd’s senseless death quickly resulted in a reflection on all the other African Americans who have ceased to exit while having an encounter with the people in blue. These encounters often began in normally unremarkable fashion and escalated into situations where the breath of life was sucked out of a human being.
I don’t want to talk about the politics of divisiveness which has taken hold of families, communities, local city halls and legislatures at both the state and federal level in the United states. Service to community and country seem to be a thing of the past, while drawing lines in the sand for another fight is the order of the day. Politicians for some ungodly reason are too consumed with fighting across the aisle versus serving (all) of the people who elected them to office.
I don’t want to talk about the lull in school shootings we’ve seen over the last three months, which obviously has resulted from there being no schools opened due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It saddens me to think that it took the closing of schools because of the Coronavirus for there to be no more school shootings. If you question my cause and effect theory here, that’s alright. I’m simply expressing my opinion, and I’ll stick with it.
I don’t want to talk about how things might be when we can get back to normal (?), and how emotionally scarred some of us will be. Some have accepted the idea that we will be operating under a new-normal. At what point does a new-normal become normal? The iPhone was released by Apple June 29, 2007. It become normal very quickly. After all, normal is that point where conforming to a standard is expected behavior. I ventured out to run some errands today. There were masked hombres everywhere. I didn’t see that three months ago.
It’s 11:00 pm, on a Saturday night, and I’m at my laptop. I’ve been having some difficulty sleeping the last week or so. I’m normally an early-to-bed person. I’ve been that way for many years; however, here I am trying to tire myself to the point that I can easily fall into slumber when my head hits the pillow. Tonight, that probably won’t be possible.
The world has been experiencing a dark chapter this past three months. The pandemic has had its way on global populations. In addition to that, there was the apparent senseless taking of a George Floyd’s life by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota that has resulted in emotionally troubling conversations around the world. Those conversations have evolved into protests in the streets. It’s fascinating how small the world has gotten during my lifetime. I think that has happened because many of us are global citizens. We jet about the globe with the convenience our grandparents experienced walking down to the local mercantile. But even if we don’t commute by jet, we have access to all that’s going on around the world with our choice of digital devices. Look at how quickly the Coronavirus spread to the far reaches of the planet. It has no legs. It cannot fly. It was carried by us.
I’ve been a benefactor of God’s graces for almost seventy years. I’ll be seventy next month, and during that time, I’ve seen many demonstrations in the streets. There have been demonstrations for the civil rights of those with Americans of African ancestry; demonstrations against the Vietnam War; demonstrations against politicians who have been elected to certain offices. It seems every imaginable constituency has felt the need at some point to demonstrate. I think people believe-to various degrees-in the promises contained in the documents that established the republic called the United States of America, but when these promises aren’t forthcoming for some, people take to the streets when they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Why aren’t these promises (life, liberty, and happiness) reigning down on all, 24/7 like manna in the wilderness for all Americans? I could go into a long diatribe as to why, but simply put the dream is always better than the reality, especially when factors such as race, class, economic status, and other categories of the human existence are viewed in light of justice and equality.
For some reason or other, we always seem to have an external enemy. Is that because the powers that be create common enemies to whom our attention can be diverted, resulting in us not continually looking at ourselves in the mirror? America has not seen a prolonged period of peace since it came into existence. Ninety-three percent of the time since the Declaration of Independence was signed, this republic has been embattled; four of those years were spent in war with itself. Oftentimes, I feel as though the Civil War is yet going on.
As we go about what too often seems like a miserable existence, wasting resources on endeavors such as war, policing ourselves against crime against ourselves, imprecisely addressing injustice and inequality through legislation, and just being downright inhumane to each other, we fail to realize how better things would be if we became true keepers of each other.
I was born in 1950. This was a time that now seems ancient. This was a time when built-in obsolescence was unheard of; when dependability and long-term utility were common. This was a time when I used to sit at the foot of my maternal grandfather, along with a couple more of his grandsons and listen to him tell of times before us. My grandfather didn’t have an ounce of formal education, but he was wise beyond any notion he harbored. He told us stories of times when he was a child. These stories were sometimes reassuring, sometimes funny and sometimes scary. The scary ones usually were laced with the realities he dealt with surrounding racism. Although he never got close to being lynched, he knew someone, who knew someone, who did. The sheer scariness of my grandfather’s stories was also enhanced by the reality that my cousins and I…
The first six months of 2020 will go down in history as one of the most dramatic. The world has been shaken with a pandemic, and in the last few days it has been awakened to act as the result of an atrocity on the streets of the United States. An atrocity, the likes of which isn’t new to the disenfranchised black and brown denizens of the country. The murder, and I purposely choose not to say alleged murder, of George Floyd by a white police officer on the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota has been the proverbial straw that has broken the backs of millions of people. People are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I normally use this space to muse about things that are on my mind; however, this time I bow to words penned by my 22-year-old granddaughter, Kennedy Hill. Kennedy just graduated from the University of Arkansas, and is about to enter graduate school there, pursuing a double program of degrees in Political Science and Law.
As you read the following, I ask that you consider the circumstances in which Kennedy was raised. She was blessed to have grandparents who are well educated, and although she was born into a single-parent home, her mom is college educated. She is also a business owner and recognized in the broader community of her hometown as a person with an opinion worth seeking on issues of the day.
Kennedy has been blessed to have all the material accoutrements any child in America could want, and a good amount of love to boot, but listen to the frustration in her words that follow:
This is my story:
I am a black woman, born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, but raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas in a single parent household. I attended a white church, predominantly white schools, but the only time I ever heard a conversation about race was when I was around black people. I felt confused.
Sophomore year of high school, I was told I was “pretty for a black girl.” It was meant as a compliment, but what I heard was “black girls are ugly, but you are the exception.” I felt disgusted.
In the eleventh grade, my best friend, in front of our entire class, told me that racism wasn’t “that bad” today as it was fifty+ years ago. I felt belittled.
My senior year in my AP US History class, we were on the topic of the slave trade. A girl ignorantly compared the buying and selling of human commodities to Black Friday, and the teacher chuckled. I felt unseen.
When my ‘friends’ discussed race matters, a rare occasion, and more specifically black people, and would say derogatory things with me in the room, they would look at me and say, “oh not you, the others.” Why? Because I was the exception. Because I didn’t show them the black stereotype that they have been brainwashed to only see, I was accepted into their world. I was non-threatening. I felt disrespected.
Fast forward to college. As I got deeper into my major and my classes became smaller, I found that I was the only black person in my classes. I felt lonely.
For most of the four years I spent on the cheer team, I was one of two black cheerleaders. And I had to hear comments that I was “the whitest black girl” my teammates knew. Or I was asked if my skin had the ability to tan. I had to hear someone call HBCU cheerleaders’ way of cheerleading “ghetto.” I felt lost.
Now it’s June 4th, 2020. I realize that most of these experiences are deemed ‘micro-aggressions.” Coined by Harvard professor Chester M. Pierce, a micro-aggression is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.”
So, I say all of this to make this final point- you may not be racist. You may be one of the ‘good ones.’ But I challenge you to truly look within and unearth those prejudices we all hold in our hearts. It is not enough to not be racist; you must be a c t i v e l y challenging every stereotype that has been engrained in you. Because when you are talking about the black community, calling blacks thugs, criminals, etc., you are talking about me, my mother, father, brother, sister, papa, mema, aunt, uncle.
You may be a ‘good one.’ But are you continually striving to make a difference? Do you call out your friends and family that make misguided, uninformed, prejudiced statements? Or do you sit in silence, scared to rock the boat, scared to speak out because you’re ‘uncomfortable’? Become an actual advocate for human rights. That, my friends, is the only way we can move forward.
And if my post makes you uncomfortable, I hate to sound rude, but deal with it. I have lived in this black skin for 22 years and have been uncomfortable my entire life.