Eleven weeks ago I thought it was enough to survive the COVID-19 lockdown with my health and sanity intact. I set a goal of hiking every day. I worked to keep my spirits up. I contacted friends and family to make sure they were okay. I finished a book proposal and tackled long-delayed household projects. I stayed at home and wore a mask and tried not to pick fights with my husband with whom I was sequestered 24/7.
Then George Floyd died on May 25 after a white police officer held his knee on Floyd's neck for 8 minutes, even though Floyd kept saying, "I can't breathe." In the aftermath, during protests and commentaries, people of color shared story after story of how they lived in fear of police brutality every day.
I thought about black colleagues and mentors who told me they were afraid for their sons. I thought about our daughter's friends at Southfield High School, amazing scholars and athletes and human beings. I thought about how I've had to struggle against the inclination to ignore the experience of people of color as long as I and my family are safe. In the 1890's sociologist W.E.B. Dubois noticed our nation's "peculiar indifference" to the suffering, poverty and poor health of black people. I've noticed that indifference in myself, and had to repent of it over and over again.
So, it's not enough just to survive the pandemic. Although given the relentless downward spiral of bad news, it remains crucial to cultivate love and joy and hope and gratitude. More than surviving, though, I need to do what is in my power to make a difference: to pray, march, write, teach an anti-racism class at my church. I need to help create a nation in which all people are valued. As we emerge from our houses, blinking in the sunlight, that's the only kind of "new normal" worth coming out to claim.