The month draws to a close, and a year that denied us a summer and so many other annual events we take for granted is coming to its unceremonious conclusion. I reflected with several lifelong, college friends and came to realize it has been a difficult year for many. There is no yearend retrospective that will give this year its proper send-off. To be honest, I am eagerly anticipating a new year that offers fewer “lifetime” events that have been shoehorned into a very traumatic 12 months.
Murder hornets, near nuclear warfare, endemic police violence and impending global economic crisis aside, I can say this has been a practice in trying out our best coping mechanisms and skills for maintaining our self-discipline. This year has been especially difficult for many of us who rely on our kinship and friend networks to help us maintain sanity. The inability to connect in person is especially difficult.
In thinking forward and looking at what will come, it is difficult not to dwell on the social, economic and political implications of a year lost to a global pandemic. Broken infrastructure and gross negligence, truly, at the highest levels have laid bare the institutional impediments that many people see on a daily basis.
The lack of proper health care and worker protections as well as institutional violence encountered by people of color are not residual elements from our state of emergency with this pandemic, but rather symptoms of a society that is as racist as it is classist, sexist and xenophobic. As the rhetoric of what has occurred solidifies and wide proliferation of a COVID-19 vaccine occurs, it remains crucial that we not look away from the disproportionate impacts on socially and economically marginalized folks.
One detail came to mind when the COVID-19 vaccine was shipped out and decisions were made about how to prioritize who will receive it: African Americans and Latinx people have been among those who have seen the highest impact. I wonder if there is an intentional effort to reach out to these communities, who also provide a significant chunk of the essential workforce that is continuously exposed to COVID-19. Similarly, many facilities that mass-incarcerate these two demographics are also covid hotspots, including the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, which has also been active with hunger strikes this month over the question of safety precautions with covid.
It is difficult to forecast the future. In doing so, we cannot ignore reality and continue operating without meaningful structural change. We must take the initiative and push for policies that center our most vulnerable community members. We must do better in 2021. That is the revolution of time, change and life.
Oscar Rosales grew up in the Yakima Valley and is a University of Washington Master of Social Work student. He has contributed to HistoryLink.org and the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project.
Read more of the Dec. 23-29, 2020 issue.