As much as I would like to retreat even more these days, I just read an excellent article, from the journal Nature, that found, "...nationwide lockdowns may have prevented 60 million COVID-19 infections in the United States and 285 million infections in China. Another study from Imperial College London, said the shutdowns in Europe saved 3.1 million lives and cut infection rates by 82 percent." I have not been a fan of the amount of energy going into re-opening based on the lingo, "We need to get back to normal." I'm not sure what normal is now - and as much as I miss the freedom of travel, of going out to eat, of just being in the presence of family and friends, I'm not sure I'm ready to do those things and risk an infection with no known cure.
And just as we're processing the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement rightly takes front stage. The recent deaths of black US citizens at the hands of the police that are there, ostensibly, to protect us all, have called out the racial inequities and injustices that decades (centuries) of systematic racism have tried to bury. It's motivated people around the world to go out in public, in large groups, with or without masks, and to say the heck with the pandemic to protest. And for those of us who are unwilling or unable to be in the protests, there have been great sources shared to help us become more educated about racism and to provide ways that we, too, can lend our support for an anti-racist future.
It makes me painfully aware that all of the researchers I know of, in polar research, are white. And there isn't, as far as I know, a good way to look up "who, working on polar bear research, is black?" I was able to find this list of "100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America" that helps me put race and science together in a way I hadn't thought about before. And, though I am truly not trying to diminish the current dialog, I did find myself smiling about polar bears and a new way to think about something I love about them - for polar bears, that white-est of all the bears, have black skin. This isn't something that is well-known or well-understood but it is something that, now, seems important. I am sure that I am a walking example of white privilege. And that I don't even know how often I am ignorant of the life experiences of my friends and neighbors who are people of color. But I'm also pleased that I have bonded to a bear that is, at the heart of its existence a reminder of both white and black. It underscores my belief that one can't live without the other - in nature, in art, in human living.
As we've said during the pandemic - "we have to use masks and social distancing for others,"
And as we say for climate change - "we have to change our behaviors so others can continue to survive and thrive,"
So now we say to our neighbors and friends - "I hear you and see you and commit to trying to make sure these injustices to you are no more."
Like the child in Simberg's painting, above, I often wish I had a steadying elder hand to protect me. Or, perhaps, that I could reach down to another and provide that shelter. We need to care, deeply, about our world at both the macro and micro level. And we can't afford to get tired of caring nor should I feel ashamed of how deeply I care. I have to believe,
You really can change the world if you care enough.
Marian Wright Edelman