Loss and Gain

By: Madison Newman

2020 has been a hard year. Perhaps this seems like a gross understatement. It has been filled with loss: of life, of important celebrations, of time with loved ones, of things hoped for. I feel this sensation of loss a lot. I feel the sadness; I wonder “when will this end?” As we become accustomed to our new normal, that stark realization of just how abnormal these times are becomes jolting in a different way. We are no longer living in the days of late March where everything is unknown; we are (hopefully) not hoarding supplies out of a fear that there will be none at the store. Many are no longer staying home anymore, with businesses reopening and new guidelines in place. We go out and eat dinner in parking lots. We can find paper towels and some cleaning wipes. We can drive to our family’s home and talk from a distance while wearing masks. It’s almost naturalized. Then, out of nowhere, you’ll remember going to dinner with a group of friends; or going to a house party; or going shopping without fear -- Loss.

We have also gained a lot. We have gained an appreciation of life; of simple things like hugging others and going to the movies; of smiling at strangers without a mask blocking it. We have celebrated our healthcare workers, the grocery store cashiers, the cleaning staff members, and the teachers. We have recognized the hard work of the stay-at-home parents. Most importantly, I believe, we have gained a profound awareness of the suffering of others this year. With the death of George Floyd in May, the world was shaken by the brutality with which people of color are treated. This suffering is not new: The Black Lives Matter Movement has long been pushing for the recognition of loss that was constantly inflicted upon marginalized communities. The world erupted in protest: racism and intolerance would no longer be ignored. Something felt different about the response this time. Humanity, perhaps more empathic and aware than ever before, seemed more ready to do the work and listen. Instagram was filled with black squares to quiet white voices; its stories were used to provide resources for education on racism. Companies began donating their profits to nonprofits that benefit marginalized groups, such as the Loveland Foundation. People read books filled with experiences of strength and perseverance; works that recognized the presence of racism in our society and sought to eliminate it. Rather than ignore recurrent problems, many began to address them head-on, myself included.

In Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life, she speaks at length about ‘diversity work.’ Diversity work, which involves companies or universities employing individuals to ensure that commitments to diversity and inclusion are being met, is often viewed critically. Ahmed specifies that people feel intimidated by that type of work; they don’t want to change their ways. However, that work is the most essential work that can be done. It involves a recognition that change is possible – no, that change is necessary. It reminds individuals and institutions that our current normal is neither sustainable nor okay. The tolerated racism and bigotry integrated within our workplaces and society is one ‘normal’ we should not crave to return to. Instead, the new normal involves a recognition of the erroneous past in hopes of a better, more equitable future. We all need to be doing this work in our own private lives – there are many ways to act as an ally. It is essential to listen, educate ourselves and get involved with activist efforts. This work is life-long, and something that we can always improve in.

Humanity, in many ways, has seemed to soften this year, too. Rather than operate within an individualized mentality, we have truly begun to care for our neighbors. We have begun to do the work. Though we have a long way to go, we have gained an awareness of the importance of the work to be done.

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