As I write this personal reflection, I deliberately shift focus from what Ubele (and I) have been doing and what has resulted during this period ….that is indeed a whole other story…..which I will share when the time feels right.
Yesterday marked 100 days since lockdown began on 23rd March and was for most of us, the beginning of a period of our lives when time took on a different dimension. The expediential pace of global adaptation and change, which would have seemed near on impossible the previous week, was introduced to safeguard human, social as well as economic survival.
Most struggled to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and yet quickly adopted an expanded lexicon of words - ‘personal distancing’ (a term used by a new Black American colleague of mine at an online event we were both speaking at earlier this week, as Black people are and remain ‘social’).
Families, friends, and colleagues torn apart through 12 weeks of ‘shielding’ of those with serious underlying health conditions.
The explosion of online digital platforms for home working and socialising (I had been using Zoom for 4 years prior to Covid-19 and did not see that coming!). Conversations about where to find toilet paper and flour and queuing and talking to strangers whilst waiting to purchase precious ‘basic supplies’.
Those of us with gardens of whatever size, were grateful to be able to access fresh air.
The world of work began to speed up for myself and most of my colleagues – back to back Zoom meetings; extended working days interspersed with short interludes to eagerly welcome and unpack food deliveries (a task I normally dislike but which took on a completely different dimension!).
The introduction of ‘furloughing’ for more than 9 million – who will see their old jobs and colleagues again?
Weekdays and weekends merging.
The government struggled (and continues to struggle) to get to grips with the human tragedy that unfolds during this pandemic – new NHS hospitals; seriously sick people on ventilators - deaths, deaths and more deaths leading to almost 45,000 (some say 55,000) of them; explanation of statistics as part of the daily Covid-19 diet.
Waving off loved ones in ambulances; strict limitations on contact; family devastation following news of their untimely death; arranging and attending ‘online funerals’ as restrictions prevent gatherings of more than 10 people.
Appreciation at last (but for how long?); of some of the most unrecognised and underpaid people within our national workforce - clinicians, care workers, bus drivers and security guards (all dying), and another new term for us – ‘frontline workers’.
A slow seeping out and then an avalanche of devasting empirical evidence telling us, (what some of us already knew), which groups the virus is killing disproportionately – Black and Ethnic Minority or ‘BAME’ communities, becoming another of those (increasingly contested) Covid-19 words….
And then on 25th May, George Floyd is murdered….
….a clear reminder to those whose personal comfort allowed them to push to the back of their minds, or had such levels of privilege that it was not part of their lived experience; that ‘institutional racism’ is and was always here in the society we have created. Who feels it knows it.
Yet the rising up of the millions of millennials across the world and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as a direct response to a systemic murder of a Black man, gives me a measure of hope that racism, a word (and experience) often replaced by the less bitter pill (or placebo?) of ‘diversity’ or ‘cultural bias’, will be opposed by a new generation of fearless anti-racist activists.
Individuals, groups, organisations, and institutions being shaken into consciousness.
Is this a real opportunity for deep and lasting systemic change?
Or are they just ‘Buying Black’…..for now?
Only time (and actions) will tell.