September 15, 2020

WAITE | 2020 and the Trauma it Reignited

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When my brother and I were younger, we often used his magnifying glass to try and start mini fires amongst the dehydrated weeds in our backyard. I know that it is cliche to write this; but gosh were those simpler times.

A few weeks ago, I read a tweet that said “stop saying ‘fuck 2020.’”

The tweeter (@elinamarchh) continued on to say “[stop] acting like police brutality, medical racism, extreme poverty, etc. are part of some weird curse. They’re not specific to 2020. These issues are deeply rooted in our governmental systems and policies. And they aren’t going away on Jan 1st [sic] at midnight.”

Obviously, I completely agree with the facts that the tweet presents: police brutality, poverty and institutional racism literally define our purportedly great nation’s existence. The irrationally defined success of our country is nourished by its perilous misgivings, and thus, 2020 functions not as an aberration of traumatic highlights, but merely as a magnifying glass; clarifying and enhancing the trauma that was poisoning us all along. But like my brother and I learned as kids, magnifying glasses can start fires.

That is the thing about trauma. Like fire, all the elements are right at the surface, already at disposal, making it quite easy to ignite. This is why I do not fully concur with the beginning portion of the tweet. The unfortunate events that defined 2020 so far uniquely managed to educate many — though, not nearly enough — on a myriad of issues they were previously ignorant of. I think that the tweet’s command to “stop saying ‘fuck 2020’” is better directed at them, rather than those who have been cognizant all along. And perhaps it was.  Because for me, and the majority of the Black community already cognizant of America’s continual apathy for our lives, we have effectively been doused in kerosene, and 2020 has been an open flame. Our reality and experiences growing up in this country are the kindling, and the trauma of this year the magnifying glass.

As a Black woman who has been painfully aware of America’s relentless miscarriage of justice for myself, family and community, I can’t seem to stop pondering over the immense disdain I have for what I have seen and experienced this year.

I can not seem to stop thinking about how painful it is to see that friends of mine who I have continually spoken to about racial injustice only begin to show some fragment of support after societal pressure compelled them to do so. I cannot stop thinking about how much I distrust the black squares my white and non-Black POC Cornellian peers posted on their social media timelines as a result of that same misguided societal pressure. I have yet to stop my emotional state from faltering when I am informed that despite the many protests, uprisings and demands for action that characterize this year, police officers are meanwhile still traumatizing, assaulting and attempting to murder my people.

My disdain and animosity for 2020 lies in the fact that I simply do not trust it. I worry about the convenience a global pandemic brings. The convenience canceled sports entertainment, work, obligations and subsequently increased leisure time brings. Though it shouldn’t be necessary, for decades there has been video evidence of so many of my brothers, sisters and cousins robbed of their breath. And so I wonder if some of the newfound self proclaimed “allies” at the start of this summer simply had nothing better to do. And so they acquiesced, and began to purport to protect people who have been screaming for help all along.

This year’s existence brings about a complication that makes me desperately want to utter the words the tweet instructs me not to say. In light of the Black community’s demands for justice, pseudo activism has run amuck. Between television casting changes — which, albeit should have never been the way they were in the first place — the retirement of historical caricatures on food items, the discontinuing of racist tv episodes and films, etc . . . , in a couple years I fear they will do as they have done time and time again before: look back on this year contending that significant change was made despite our demands having yet to be answered. We are still getting killed in the streets. And in our beds.

I have never cried and hurt for my people and our future as much as I did this past summer. But granted, I am only 19. This year has magnified a perfectly designed system that has fucked me and my people up since we were stolen from our families centuries ago. So no, it definitely is not the year that defines our nation’s past and present abhorrent atrocities, but given how exhausting it is to fight for the right to live century after century, I believe we would be remiss to deny that 2020 has had scorching effects on every aspect of our psyche. As if trauma can’t be reignited.

So though I — and every other conscious Black person — have been mad all my life, the only thing I wanted to do this year is shout fuck — and every other obscenity — to everyone who cares to hear me. And to anyone who dares not to.


Sidney Malia Waite is a junior in the School or Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at [email protected]. Waite, What? runs alternate Tuesdays this semester.