I won’t lie: This January column was drafted several times over. As the first few days of the new year plopped themselves on my calendar, echoes from last year emanated, as if refusing to relinquish its grip on a twisted, telenovela-esque reality. What the hell, 2021? Thought we were cool? Seriously, who the hell thought we would have a brazen attempt at a right-wing coup on live TV before the first full week of year concluded? It appears that in this case, the “devolution” would be televised.
I awaited the third week of this month with as much trepidation as one would have for a moment in time in which our collective reality has been absolutely bat-excrement-level crazy. Besides right-wing rage in the most 2020 way possible, the past week had also witnessed the horrid benchmark of having an excess of 400,000 deaths for a global pandemic that is now a year old. Of course, we later find out there is no tangible plan in place to properly distribute aid as COVID vaccines are produced. The gross negligence at play is absolutely jaw-dropping in scale.
My dilemma writing this was in playing catch-up with the news cycle, while news stories entered my news feed at a dizzying pace. Then, in an instant, the sense of operating in a state of day-to-day survival dissipated as news media became fixated on a new administration and, ironically, on the absence of violent expressions of white supremacist violence.
The sudden shift in narrative is stunning and, I think, what is making me very uneasy.
As I recall the visuals from Jan. 6, I can’t help but recall the previous four years of both individual as well as institutional violence. I recall a shooting spree in El Paso, Texas; the gunman shot people of ethnic Mexican ancestry because of the delusional fiction that Mexicans are “invading” the American Southwest.
Similarly, I recall the continued violence and discrimination embedded in U.S. policing that launched a wave of activism in the spring and summer of 2020. African American communities have been speaking their truth about law enforcement operating with absolute impunity. As time elapses, let’s not forget that many who made a showing at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., were members of law enforcement. I don’t believe this is a coincidence.
And of course, at a macro level, structural racism in tandem with classism continues to punish communities of color, who are the crux of our essential workforce and at the highest risk for COVID infection. As I’ve noted a few months here, we don’t have the luxury of short memories. Our communities deserve social and economic justice.
Oscar Rosales grew up in the Yakima Valley and studies social work at the University of Washington.
Read more in the Jan. 27 - Feb. 2, 2021 issue.