Years from now, when people ask us what the year 2020 was like, all I can say is that it was a time of disaster, unrest, and tragedy, all underneath the cloud of a global pandemic. But in its darkness, it also rang in a new era of solidarity, accountability, and transformation. During these months (excluding March, which felt like years), some saw it as a time of reflection, of resetting and recharging. Those who did not have the privilege of time to reflect suffered from the financial ramifications of the epidemic and will continue to in the aftermath as well.
When the editors and I were on a Zoom call discussing this issue, there was a moment of silence. So much has happened this year; we didn’t know where to begin. Do we talk about the pandemic? Do we talk about Chadwick, Kobe, Breonna, George, and all the tragic losses at the hands of the police? Do we talk about the Australian bushfires? Do we mention when the CDC recommended alternative methods to face-to-face sexual activity, like glory holes?
At the beginning of lockdown, we saw businesses fall, one after another, or some closing indefinitely. We saw grocery stores empty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. We created new buzzwords like unprecedented and essential. There was a lot of misinformation being spread around and it got to the point where it was hard to read the news every day. Companies and schools transitioned to online learning and video calling. One thing I do know for sure is that Skype completely dropped the ball on this one.
Also, COVID-19 comes with a mental strain and exhaustion that I don’t think any of us were prepared for. Living in a time of uncertainty and with a constant air of cautiousness is anxiety-inducing. I applaud the people who overcome their obstacles and push through their fears to get through this time. Someone who takes care of their mental wellbeing can sometimes feel like they have a second job, and seeing “if you didn’t start a business or learn a new skill in quarantine, you’re doing it wrong!” on social media was frustrating. If I rolled my eyes any harder at those posts, they would have popped out of my head.
And of course, it was also quite frustrating to see people call the pandemic a ‘blessing,’, or saying it’s a good time to reflect. While the lack of human activity changing the environment was distinct (i.e. clear water canals in Italy and no the lack of flights sent carbon emissions amounts went way down), it did not equate to the number of lives lost and or the economic ruin due to COVID-19.
This mentality showed up again in a recent roundtable talk with Janelle Monae, Zendaya, Helena Bonham Carter, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Rose Byrne in the seats.
Monae didn’t hesitate to call out the rest on their privilege. “For me and my people, for the Black community, this is not an exciting time. This isn’t a time that we get to really reflect. We’re dealing with a lot of trauma. We were dealing with COVID-19, which affects us disproportionately—if America sneezes, the Black community gets pneumonia—and now we’re having to deal with the very colour of our skin making us a target.”
As for people who say they are allies, it cannot be in the form of a post or hashtag. “I’m not settling for lip service. If you want to show me that you’re an ally, it’s going to have to be rooted in acts of service,” states Monae.
Before we went into lockdown, Associate Editor Chantel and I attended the IxL Impact by Leadership Conference held at the Burnaby campus. “Decolonizing Leadership – Systems, Stories, Relationships” taught by Outreach & Community Engagement Coordinator at SFU, Aslam Bulbulia, was the first workshop we attended. It was a great eye-opening experience from the POV of a white person, my biggest takeaway being people “stepping up/stepping down” to allow for diverse conversations and voices brought to the surface. The BLM movement has amplified these conversations and will be a catalyst for change, just like how the #MeToo movement rippled through every industry, with vigor and an agenda to hold those accountable and make room at the table.
I grew up in a predominantly white town and was not exposed to much diversity until moving here. The most relatable example I read was that we will never fully understand the struggles within the black community, in the same way, a man will never fully understand the struggles women go through. So, those of us who stand by our friends, families, and communities suffering, we must make room at the table (and leave the table), be quiet, listen, continue to learn, amplify those voices, and change narratives.
In this issue, we touch on international news that was overshadowed by the pandemic, policing the police, preparing for the school year, and how we can help out our community. Also, as seen on the cover, we lust after where we could be if there wasn’t a global pandemic going on.
Hopefully, the time for reflecting diminishes, and the current action, awareness, and accountability taking place projects us forward into a year of transformation. That we stay on a trajectory that eases, quite frankly, the absolute clusterf*ck that has been the year 2020. Who knows, maybe the last few months of the year will be kinder and bring us a little bit of glory.