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Thinker's Notebook

Where Are We Going?



By Marlon Rice

If I’m being honest, it took me days to write this article. Like you, I’ve had to deal with an increased level of stress over the last week. I’ve had headaches. I’ve had a harder time sleeping. And, my focus has been strained. I’m tired. Emotionally. Worn out.

2020 has been difficult.
We’ve had severe bushfires in Australia, and an acquittal in the Trump impeachment trial. We lost Kobe and Gigi Bryant and then the whole world became infected with Covid-19. For 79 days, our city has been under quarantine. We’ve been at home, working, living, surviving as the paradigms that we were so used to crumbled at our feet. Work commutes were traded in for Zoom calls. Paychecks were traded in for stimulus checks. Every trip outside turned into a fight to survive. And, people died. Friends. Family. Gone.
I was on St James Place last week at around 7pm. My mother had her sleigh bells, and our neighbors were clapping pans together to celebrate the work of our frontline essential workers. It was the Tuesday after Memorial Day, the unofficial start of the summer season. Even though Dance Africa was canceled, the feeling in our community was that of hope, of anticipation, and in some ways of victory. Covid didn’t destroy us. We were still here, and summer was coming. That evening as I was leaving St. James Place, I got a notification from CNN news. It said that a Black man in Minnesota had been killed by Police Officers. I saw the notification on my phone, sighed, and put the phone back into my pocket.
The image of Derek Chauvin pressing his knee on the neck and head of George Floyd sickens me. For over 8 minutes, Floyd pleaded for his life while Derek ignored him. That one video rehashed the staggering pressures of racism and oppression in anyone who watched. How could it not? This was an American reminder. Even in a pandemic, racism is more contagious and more deadly. Sickening. Here we are just trying to adjust to life in a pandemic, and one incident in Minnesota reminds us that all over this nation Blackness makes a human susceptible to murder.
Certain things, when you see them, they jolt something in you. The thing, it squeezes at your foundation and it causes you to react, like a kettle screaming because the water inside is boiling. You can’t help it. You have to act on the feeling because if you don’t it might eat you alive. And that’s under normal circumstances. Compound those feelings with the unresolved emotional stress of 70-some odd days of quarantine, of losing your friends and family to Covid, of losing work or having to close a business, or having to be on hold for two hours just to file for unemployment, or having to listen to the absolute most idiotic and racist President known to this Country marginalize everyone with every word he says or tweets. Our emotional immune systems are most certainly compromised. No mask or social distancing can help us. And so, just as a virus coarses itself through the bloodstream, the virus of racism flows into the streets.
After days of tear gas and anarchists, riot gear and rubber bullets, political pandering, Trump waging war on American citizens, and even more Black deaths at the hands of white cops, I sit here on my couch at 7:40pm, Tuesday June 2nd, six days before my 45th birthday. Curfew is in 20 minutes. I can hear the sound of sirens screaming down some block behind me. We are under quarantine from a pandemic. We are enraged at our Nation. And, we are under a citywide curfew because of that rage. Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, and more than 40 other Cities in 15 States are also under curfew. Meanwhile, it was reported today that there were 19,000 new Covid cases in the last 24 hours.
I spent last New Year’s Eve in a tiny cabin up in the Catskills, and before 2019 ended I wrote my goals for the New Year into a book. I’m in the third month of a global pandemic while the Nation has fallen into riots. The wicked racist truth of America has surfaced again, and there are a bunch of new rules that eerily resemble this Martial Law that conspiracy theorists have been mentioning for generations. I didn’t write any of that into the book. Reminds me of the Woody Allen quote, “if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”
I’m thankful for my family and my resources. I’m hopeful for the future of my community and my nation. But I do wonder, where are we going?

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