Life While “The Times They Are A-Changin’”

By Mary Kay Turner

The word unprecedented has become a frequent reminder of the changes in our lives because of the new public health crisis, COVID-19. The virus came to the United States on January 20; soon there were “hot spots” in Washington, California, and spreading.  Now in the US over 2,500,000 people have been infected, and 150,000-plus people have died from COVID-19.

Many active healthy people, including first responders, health care workers, and children are included in these statistics. These numbers do not tell us about the suffering of individuals and families who have lived with and lost loved ones to very contagious COVID-19. All of our lives changed due to shelter-in-place orders that have kept most people safe from this novel virus that scientists are working hard to understand. Closing schools brought many challenges, as teachers, students, and parents learned to use their social media skills for education. Many people began to work from home and communicate using various social media platforms.

While we were dealing with COVID-19, we saw some terrible acts of racism, another public health crisis. We saw in graphic detail what happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and more people of color who were killed while they were paying bills, sleeping, and jogging. In these and more situations we learned that people of color must also deal with facing deaths of loved ones engaged in normal daily activities.

We learned about Juneteenth, celebrated as African American Emancipation Day, commemorating June 19, 1865, 2½ years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. General Granger read this proclamation in Galveston, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free…”

We also learned about the May 31-June 1, 1921, Greenwood Massacre, where mobs of white residents attacked black residents, homes, and businesses, destroying more than 35 square blocks of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, OK. This trauma was hidden until 1996 when the legislature authorized the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. The 2001 report confirmed 36 people died, with overall estimates from 100–300 people dead.  More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals, about 10,000 black residents were left homeless, and up to 6,000 black residents were interned at large facilities, many for days.

We are learning about the black and white Americas, where for centuries black residents have been excluded from attaining a good education, learning skills, acquiring decent jobs, buying homes where they want to live and more—only because of the color of their skin, while white residents enjoy those and many more privileges.  We have learned that the experience of “driving while black” is often very different from, and more dangerous than “driving while white.”

We learn that life isn’t “all about me.”  We wear face masks to show mutual respect and keep everyone safe. We’re listening to painful experiences of discrimination and institutional racism. We begin to understand more about challenges our neighbors face, and we become more compassionate. Let us commit ourselves to work together and create equal opportunities for all people in the beloved community!

For more information about Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC), call 717-334-7312, visit mediateadams.org, or email mediationac@yahoo.com.  Call to talk about getting help to resolve conflicts with family members, neighbors, landlords, etc. Fees are reasonable, based on income.  Through September 30, 2020, we will offer mediation on Zoom.