by Danielle Sanders, Interim Managing Editor
At the end of 2019, people gathered to embrace the New Year. Claiming the phrase, “The Year of 20/20 Vision”, many of us had no idea of the words we spoke. The end of 2020 marks a year unlike any in our recent memories. It was a year filled with a global pandemic, death, racial injustice, and a government in turmoil. This year tested the resolve of many Americans like no other. In this challenging year, we also saw glimpses of the best parts of ourselves in everyday heroes. It was a year of great revelation, both good and bad.
The year began with the impeachment trial of Donald Trump and the death of Kobe Bryant. Trump became the third impeached President in history. Accused of abuse of power and the obstruction of Congress, the Senate acquitted him, voting along party lines. Killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, the death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, left the world stunned.
It would not be the last time Americans would feel numb, bewildered, shocked, or disgusted.
A GLOBAL PANDEMIC.
At the close of 2019, the world learned of a man who died of an unknown virus in Wuhan, China. Similar cases continued in China as news of this new deadly virus began to spread. Americans watched from afar, never thinking the virus would affect the world. Scientists in China identified the virus as a type of coronavirus. The World Health Organization said it was monitoring this new virus, but the worst was yet to come.
By February, the virus spread to other counties. Cruise ships were among the first to see the rapid spread of this new virus. The first coronavirus case was diagnosed in the US on January 20. The first case diagnosed in Illinois occurred in March. Countries began initiating travel restrictions and lockdowns. Cruise ships became stuck at sea with sick vacationers. State officials wondered how to prevent this virus’s spread. When asked by the media, the President told the American people, there was nothing to worry about. He compared the virus to a different strand of the flu. As the numbers began to rise in the US, individual states took matters into their own hands. Cities across the country initiated “Stay at Home” orders allowing only essential services to remain open. Offices and schools closed and moved to remote working and learning. We learned new phrases like pandemic, COVID-19, and social distancing. We ceased going anywhere without a mask and sanitizer. The world, as we knew it completely changed.
Restaurants and businesses closed. Weddings, Graduations, and proms became drive-in and virtual events if they weren’t canceled or postponed. Scientists became household names as Americans tuned in for daily briefings from the nation’s expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci or Dr. Ngozi Ezike in Illinois. Parents struggled with remote learning while working from home. Death was massive with many COVID-19 patients dying alone without family and friends present. The losses were staggering, with many losing loved ones and livelihoods. Employers furloughed or laid off their staff. Artists, Actors, and Musicians saw their incomes disappear with event cancelations. Freelancers and Gig Workers saw their incomes shrink as people stayed home. As a result, unemployment skyrocketed to rates unseen since the great depression and the recession. Black people were dying at higher rates from COVID-19. With many working as essential workers, living with pre-existing conditions, and lacking access to good medical care, our communities were suffering.
In November, a vaccine was announced by the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer. Recently approved the vaccine has been distributed to first responders around the world. Vaccinations need to be taken by at least 70% of the public to call an end to the pandemic. Coronavirus changed everything for everyone all around the world. Nothing about the year 2020 would be the same.
8 MINUTES 46 SECONDS THAT OPENED THE FLOODGATES
Police killings of unarmed black people are not new. Still, the trifecta of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery in February, Breonna Taylor in March, and George Floyd in May hit Black Americans hard. Fed up, Americans took to the streets in anger, frustration, and rage to protest their killings and the police’s lack of accountability. With the world watching, Black Lives Matter went global with protests happening around the world. Countries stood in solidarity with Black people exhausted by the increasing number of hashtags. Collective anger turned to rage as some looted businesses already struggling in a pandemic. The world learned what a “Karen” or “Ken” was. Corporations and businesses rushed to initiate diversity and inclusion committees and programs often out of fear of being “canceled” or highlighted negatively on social media. There was a newfound interest in black-owned everything. The media went into overdrive, highlighting black everything; Film, Books, Music, TV, and Art, to appear diverse. Emotionally drained and mentally exhausted Blacks were asked by well-intentioned white friends and allies to “explain” it all so they could understand 400+ years of injustice, racism, and systematic oppression.
The holiday celebrated for generations, Juneteenth, all of a sudden, became important to businesses and corporations who decided to recognize it. Despite all these cosmetic changes, Colin Kaepernick remains blackballed from the league, and the killers of unarmed black people remain free. The second half of the year would mark Jacob Blake’s shooting, shot seven times in the back, the unlawful search warrant executed against innocent civilian, Anjanette Young, and the latest police murder of Casey Goodson, Jr.
Young people became leaders and activists using social media to mobilize and engage. Tired of watching their community fight the same battles against racism and racist structures as generations before them, young people were defiant and loud. They were bold in their requests to dismantle systems of oppression. These young people used social media to engage like never before, and they harnessed their power in protests and at the polls.
THE REALITY SHOW KNOWN AS THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
Staying true to form as the craziest year ever, we watched in sheer disbelief; a President reveal his admiration of racists, denial of science, and praiser of himself.
Trump refused to believe America was amid a pandemic, constantly refuting scientists, and casting doubt on whether masks and social distancing worked. Filled with conspiracy theories and outright lies, his press conferences often stunned the press. He even suggested Americans inject their bodies with disinfectant or UV rays. “It sounds interesting,” he said. His response to the coronavirus pandemic has been abysmal. Trump contracted COVID-19 in the latter part of the year after hosting super spreader events and maskless rallies. While Americans were dying, cities struggling financially, and people suffering, Trump sang his praises, telling reporters he has done a phenomenal job controlling the virus. As of December 2020, the United States has 19.1 million confirmed COVID-19 and over 300K deaths.
He attacked the press calling many of them idiots and morons. He called fallen soldiers and war heroes suckers and losers. He refused to address the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery but made sure to admonish protestors while praising the police. He even had protestors sprayed with tear gas so he could pose with a bible upside down at a local church.
Americans watched the road to the election that held enough drama for a Bravo reality show. He fueled racists, calling the coronavirus the “Chinese Virus,” and refused to denounce white supremacy in a chaotic debate.
Joe Biden made history when he selected Kamala Harris as his running mate as the first Black Woman to secure the role. The pandemic drew more people to vote by mail as Americans voted in record numbers. After a lengthy count, Joe Biden secured both the popular and electoral vote to win the election. Since election day, the nation watched Trump become even more unhinged. From denying the election results, suing states to void election numbers, and repeating false claims of a rigged election, many wonder if he will leave the office peacefully in January.
He has initiated a firing spree of any of his elected officials who do not side with him on his baseless claims. To anger republicans who have not remained loyal to him, Trump recently refused to sign the new Coronavirus bill to provide Americans with additional financial help, protect unemployment benefits, and prevent evictions and a government shutdown. Unemployment benefits expired at midnight on December 26. The President reluctantly signed the bill on December 27.
With less than 20 days in office, Americans wonder how much more damage and chaos he can do. He refuses to work with Biden on a peaceful transition of power. He refuses to discuss the surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, choosing instead to post tweets about unfound election fraud and golfing.
A pandemic, revolution, uprising, and a President unhinged affected all our lives in many ways. Tomorrow, we will explore how Black Americans adjusted to the “new normal” and the good that came from one of the most revealing years in history. “2020 The Year that Opened our Eyes” will continue tomorrow with Part 2.
Danielle Sanders is a writer and journalist living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.