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2020 In Reflection

Updated: Mar 14

Dear Asian Youth,

When we think back to the moments when humanity made great leaps forward, they are often preceded by a period of darkness. Over the centuries, we have made many different metaphors to this idea in old adages such as “diamonds are made under pressure” or “a phoenix rises from the ashes.” Oftentimes, it is when humanity faces its darkest moments that we also make the most progress. When we implement and create change. When enough people get fed up, and say “enough is enough.”

2020 is one of these years. From the terrifying and deeply divided political environment, months of civil unrest, or a global pandemic that has affected the world in ways unseen, this year has been a year unlike many. Almost everyone's lives have been affected one way or another. While many of us search for a silver lining, or some reason for the series of events that occurred this year, many will say we had it coming. Many of the events that occurred this year have been predicted to occur or foreseen for a long while. Yet under very unique circumstances, 2020 managed to bring it all to the forefront of our attention.

There was a Tiktok that was trending a few months back that discussed the number of seemingly historic events that happened this year. From wildfires that burned millions of acres of land in Australia, to the deeply partisan impeachment of Donald Trump. From the Black Lives Matter protest that swept the nation in response to videos of police brutality, to the Covid-19 pandemic that brought our country to its knees.

Many will say that the tumultuous events of this year came as a surprise. Quite honestly, no one could have guessed as we all celebrated the New Years Eve in 2019, that the world would be where we are now; however, we can’t deny that there were signs.

In a fiery speech back in October, former President Obama said, “We literally left this White House a Pandemic Playbook.That would have shown them how to respond before the virus reached our shores. They probably used it to, I don't know, prop up a wobbly table somewhere” (MSNBC). This pandemic playbook was officially published and released in December 2016, with the opening pages stating, “Infectious disease outbreaks threaten global health, economic vitality, and U.S. national security. Infectious disease emergencies prompting U.S. and international response efforts have involved previously unknown pathogens, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, as well as known pathogens causing outbreaks of unprecedented magnitude, such as Zika virus and Ebola virus… A convergence of factors including globalized travel and trade, climate change, urbanization, and agricultural practices contributes to infectious disease outbreaks of humans, animals, and plants” (White House Archives).

Even back in 2016 there were predictions that infectious diseases and viruses were a major threat to our nation and the world. Several leading scientists left pages of instructions as well as warnings to future administrations on how to build an effective response to an infectious disease such as Covid-19 that has now claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the U.S.

After the government shutdowns that led to a major economic crisis and a recession, a deeply divided congress stuttered to a halt in delivering any aid to the American people, let alone providing effective guidance for states to get the virus under control. Deeply divisive partisan politics has gotten worse over the years, but there can be no denial that there weren’t also signs back in 2016 when Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell refused to confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme court. Even as we look to Obama's last 4 years in office as partisan politics led to government shutdowns, and an increasing conservative block that refused to pass any legislation written by the democratic party.

Michelle Obama, the former first lady, released her book Becoming back in 2018 along with a Netflix documentary of the same name earlier this year. In the middle of the documentary, she is recording stating, “When Barack was first elected, various commentators had naively declared that our country was entering a, ‘post racial era,’ in which skin color would no longer matter. Many were overlooking the racism, and tribalism that were tearing our nation apart.” Several scenes later she also says, “I understand the people who voted for Trump. The people who didn’t vote at all: the young people, the women, and that's when you think, “Man, people think this is a game.” And it wasn’t in this election but every midterm. Every time Barack didn’t get the congress he needed, that was because our folks didn’t show up.” This naivety, and the issues with lack of voter turnout as well as the rise of Trumpism, was never not predicted, except that so many people turned a blind eye to the true state of our nation.

When we think back to the past decade, we see little signs. Many of us think back to March of this year as the rise of Black Lives Matter. For some, Black Lives Matter was something we never heard about, cared about, or gave much attention. Many POC and white people were blindsided by the protest this year, and all of us had hard conversations with family, and had to reconsider friendships over the matter. Yet some were shocked to learn that Black Lives Matter has existed since 2013, following several murders of black people by white supremacists and police. Colin Kaepernick famously kneeled during the national anthem in protest back in 2016,