2020 will be remembered for many things, I imagine. Certainly for the global pandemic that has taken so many lives, has quieted cities and quashed economies, and that will likely continue to do so. Cases are rising in Florida, for example, and the newly re-opened stores, bars, and restaurants are surely both the cause of the uptick and a guarantee that the crisis will continue, without treatments or a vaccine, for the foreseeable future.
This year will be remembered for the increasing visibility of the impact of anthropogenic climate change: a burning Amazon, a burning Australia, a burning California, and what is shaping up to be a potentially devastating hurricane season for the Eastern seaboard.
It will also be remembered for a crushing global rise in nationalist populism, which saw strong-men like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and others leverage division and fear for their own benefit and at the expense of the very people they were tasked with leading and protecting.
It will be remembered, too, for the global uprising against white supremacy launched by the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police offers.
I walked in the streets of Miami in response to that murder, and the wretched 400 year-plus history of racist and racialized violence in the U.S. that preceded and predicted it, with thousands of my neighbors, my comrades, and my friends.
It was jarring to be among so, so many after months of isolation. Masked demonstrators all around me walked shoulder-to-shoulder. We yelled. We chanted. We mourned. We knelt. We cried. And unlike protestors across the nation and the world, at least when I marched, we were lucky. We were not, like so many, trapped, tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, shot, shoved, and beaten by police.
But even if the police had come to surround us, I likely would have suffered a different fate than some of my comrades. I am the beneficiary of white supremacy. My safety, privilege, and wealth are, in this country, maintained at the express expense of my black and brown neighbors and friends. My life, by the standards of the systems under which we are currently governed, policed, and under which we work and learn, is deemed more valuable than theirs. This MUST end. BLACK LIVES MATTER. Period. Until we have fully dismantled the systems (governmental, juridical, disciplinary, educational, and economic) that refuse the absolute fact of the value of black lives, white people, like me, like (some of) you, will remain complicit in white supremacy, in racism, and in the systematic traumatization, devaluation, incarceration, and death of black and brown people.
The uprising, still ongoing, must go on. And it will. Let’s make it what we really remember about 2020. I want the deep and undeniable grief and rage, visible on the streets of cities everywhere– Minneapolis, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Cleveland, Paris, London, Albuquerque, Oakland and on, and on and on–to be marked in our histories as the necessary and final explosion against white supremacy. I want the grief and the rage to move through the world with such force that the devastation that launched it for so long is abolished by it, and what is left is what the anti-racist movement has always really been about: JOY.
The real radical hope that we share is, after all, born not of mourning but of joy. Joy in our shared neighborhoods and cities, joy in each other and our shared worlds, joy in our differences. George Floyd brought joy into the world for his family and community. So did Tony McDade. So did Breonna Taylor. So did Ahmaud Arbery. So did Tamir Rice. So did Philando Castile. So did Israel Hernandez. So did countless others who died at the hands of racialized violence. It is the end of these precious human beings’ ability to experience and share joy that we grieve. White supremacy is, at its core, a killer of human joy. Let us grieve now, together. Yes. Let us fight now, together. Yes. We do it, together, because we know the truth of human joy. We know its promise will only be fulfilled when we all have the same opportunities to reach toward it, to live in it, to inspire it in those we hold close, and those strange to us.
It’s that kind of joy that we need if we are to face this pandemic. It’s that joy we’ll need to combat climate change and ensure climate justice. It’s that joy that will help us build new and different economic models, ones that do not work only for the wealthy few, but for the very many.
Black lives matter! Scream that, from any rooftop, on any street, at any demonstration, in any argument, and see if you don’t feel some portion of the joy that’s coming as this righteous uprising continues and, I radically hope, succeeds. I vow to do the work. It will not be easy. It will not always be peaceful. Join me. That real, as yet unknown, joy we have coming is, I promise you, worth it.