It is almost impossible to fathom all that has happened in the last two years. No one could have imagined what would transpire as we left our offices, restaurants, schools and health care facilities that confusing day in March 2020. The next few months brought a pandemic that has claimed over 780,000 American lives, economic hardship that, although easing in some respects, continues to be felt today, along with nationwide unrest following the public murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. These horrific events were documented and discussed on the nightly news, in homes, and online. Opinions about the origins and possible solutions for the perfect storm created by these events varied considerably, but no one could deny the fundamental truth that had been exposed: the American experience differs dramatically depending on one’s racial identity, socioeconomic status, or both.
Although no one escaped the impact of the pandemic, economic hardship, and health-related restrictions, not all experienced them the same way. Most gasped in horror at the inhumanity displayed in the 8 minutes and 46 seconds which documented in microcosm the Black experience, but our Black and Brown friends, colleagues and family members saw in George Floyd their brothers, fathers, sons and daughters, and other loved ones, through the crushing weight of 400 years of racial trauma. Restaurants and retail store closings were an inconvenience for some and a life-threatening reality for others. Some could focus on toilet paper shortages while those who were used to going without, went without even more. Our friends and family in the AAPI community felt the effects of the pandemic in attacks on their bodies from the virus and from those filled with hate who wrongly believed the racially-discriminatory disinformation campaign that blamed them for it. Some were rightly frustrated by the inadequacies of remote schooling while others were forced to leave the workforce because of lack of quality childcare options and the impossibility of managing access to public education for multiple school-aged children with meager resources. Those who began the last two years at a disadvantage saw their circumstances further degrade as each facet of the perfect storm unfolded. As 2020 drew to a close, weary people pinned their hopes for a return to Normal on the rollout of vaccines, a new President and refreshed economic indicators.
2021 began with the Capital riots on January 6, an event which vividly demonstrated that a return to Normal was not in the offing. The rollercoaster events of 2021 kept the nation roiled in uncertainty. Optimism from the vaccine rollout was followed by the onset of the Delta variant. The nation partially reopened, but economic recovery did not follow as quickly as hoped. Families began to gather again but felt the emptiness of members lost to COVID. Americans battled their fears of public gatherings, uncertainty about the future of the virus, the truth of science, the reality of race in our country, and unfortunately, each other.
As we move toward 2022, a return to Normal seems not only impossible, but inappropriate. Normal accepted racial and social injustice. America needs to establish a New Normal. Who we will be in that New Normal is still uncertain. Will we be the United States in which 3 white men who hunted down and killed a black man who committed no offense other than being Black are effectively prosecuted and convicted of felony murder and related charges by a jury of 11 white and one black member? Or will we be the America where a biased law enforcement system refused to investigate that same crime for 2 months until a video was released to the public that sparked public outrage and forced their hand? Will the New Normal include the opportunity for all eligible voters to participate in our democracy, the reduction of the wealth and opportunity gap in this country, and finally achieve the dismantling of racial injustices which combine to oppress Black and Brown communities across the numerous systems which form the core infrastructure of this country?
Although the events of the last nearly 2 years have unfolded with almost dizzying intensity and impact, in the course of history, 2 years is but a moment. This is our Moment. Whether we seize this Moment or allow it to pass without continued action will shape our history. We have an opportunity in this Moment to work toward a reality which recognizes each individual’s humanity and respects their dignity. Big changes are needed. To make big changes we will need big ideas, strong actions and courageous individual choices. Boston CASA intends to be part of this transformation. Boston CASA believes in the power of Community to effect lasting change; we will partner with others who are seeking to make this Moment pivotal, to mark the point at which our current goals of equal status and opportunity among races start to become reality, when diversity, equity and inclusion are not an organizational department but rather a national imperative. Boston CASA is awed by our volunteers who engage with families at the intersection of systemic racial and social injustice to support them in speaking their truth, in helping them sustain appropriate or necessary changes within their family, and hopefully finding their way forward through the myriad barriers facing them every day. Each of our volunteers has made the courageous choice to seize this Moment and join the fight for change. Boston CASA will strive each day in 2022 to honor their commitment and our commitment to the children, youth and families we support so that at the end of next year, we will be on our way to cementing a New Normal of a truly United States.
Boston CASA staff wishes everyone peace and joy this season and a healthy, happy new year!