Look, this year has been bad. Probably the worst in living memory for a lot of us, making it hard to look for any kind of silver lining. There’s a pandemic sweeping the world. There have been horrific cases of police brutality leading to protests and unrest throughout the United States. Also, who could forget about the murder hornets? On some days, it feels a little bit like the apocalypse is upon us. But in the midst of all of this darkness, there is a light, however small it may be. This time of chaos is bringing about some changes, and even though these changes come from incredible pain and loss, they are changes that just might bring about a better future.
In the last several weeks, the United States has erupted in protests after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin. It seems like Americans have finally had enough of police brutality after years of near-constant news of young black men and women killed by police.
The murder of George Floyd is an undeniable tragedy. However, as a result, we’re seeing activism on a level that might have been unimaginable a few weeks ago. All 50 States, as well as some other countries, held protests to fight for justice and equality. As a direct result of these protests, the men who killed George Floyd were arrested.
There is a lot of work left to do. Breonna Taylor’s killers are still walking free, and everyday news hits of some horrendous injustice that was previously swept under the rug, like the killing of Elijah McClain. Systemic racism is not a problem that can be solved in a month. It will require continued activism and wide-sweeping reform. While it may seem like an uphill battle, more people than ever are showing up in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This is only the beginning of true and meaningful change, and the images floating around of thousands of people kneeling in the streets should be a source of hope in an otherwise difficult time.
In a similar vein, people are speaking out against injustices beyond just the most egregious violences. Workers are speaking out against their companies, calling out racist cultures. In the age of social media, calling out a person or company publicly is an incredibly powerful tool. Some call it a mob mentality, but I see it more as putting the power in the hands of the people when it comes to what we will and will not tolerate. By publicly speaking out, people are forcing an acknowledgment of bad behavior and a dedication to change in the future.
What began as a mass calling out of racism, especially in the workplace, has trickled into other areas of life. Women are again speaking out against those who have sexually harassed or abused them, much like the beginning of the #MeToo movement. Women are speaking out against comedian Chris D’Elia, Justin Beiber, and Ansel Elgort, among others.
Every racist or sexually abusive person who loses their platform or their job makes space for a better person to take their place. With luck, this will lead to a more diverse, more equal workplace in every arena. It will lead to more voices out there painting a very different narrative than the straight white male one that has been historically pervasive.
While seeing all of these stories might be discouraging, and might add to the feeling that this year is just an absolute train wreck, it’s important to look deeper at the silver lining. When people are speaking out, especially against the rich and powerful, it means forward progress. It means a safer future.
The pandemic is an awful force causing major upheaval in everyone’s lives. It’s causing deep divisions in society. Many don’t believe it’s as severe as experts say, while others are furious that their neighbors aren’t taking it seriously enough and wearing masks. As bleak as things may seem, there is an upside to this whole fiasco.
The outbreak of a global pandemic upended all of our lives in a very significant way. Many have lost family members, or livelihoods, or both. However, it has also caused many people to be aware of how we interact with one another. We are forced to be more conscious of space, because of the six feet apart rule. People are washing their hands more, and sharing drinks less. This seems like a very small thing, and it is. But the little things might make life just a little more pleasant and a little less plague-ridden down the line.
I’ve found that many are also more actively supporting small businesses. Owning a small business at any time is a difficult feat. During a pandemic, it is quite nearly impossible. People have been coming out in droves to support small businesses as they reopen all over the country. The pandemic has highlighted how important small businesses are to our communities, and consumers all over the place are more consciously supporting them.
I am not going to sit here and tell you “Don’t worry, be happy!”. There is plenty to worry about, and your fear, pain, and whatever other emotion you may be experiencing are all completely valid. Looking forward to the future, there might be a silver lining in all this misery. It might just lead to a better world down the line.