The beginning of the end of the pandemic. A return from social isolation. A year of protest. A year of reflection. America and more locally Eliot has a huge opportunity ahead of us. Things won’t be the same as they were in 2019, but the future is bright: vaccines are coming. While the rollout has been inequitable I am optimistic that the rate of vaccination is reaching an inflection point. Schools will reopen soon. Restaurants and in-person businesses will come back in the not too distant future. Masks might fall by the wayside as soon as this summer. I can’t wait.
The past year has been a magnifying glass on the inequalities in our society. I have been privileged enough to have my kids in daycare, my job switched to remote, and my life somewhat normal. The main thing my family has lost out on is social contact with our friends and family. I haven’t hosted dinner parties for an entire year, and hardly anyone has been inside my house. It has been a hard year for me mentally and emotionally. However, when I look outside it is obvious how many other people have had a much harder year than I have.
I see an expanding population of people living outside while housing prices have gone up faster than any time in recent memory. I see a city that seems unable to meet the scale of the problem and am thankful for volunteers who are trying to fill the gap. People are out on our streets, and they are hurting.
Protests have called out the way we police public space. Some have been calling for the need for change for years, but now many more are aware of this need. Some want to abolish the existing system and start over while others want to try at reform.
Racial injustices have become more obvious as well. Participating in a few marches and witnessing quite a number more, I have come to realize that the scars of the past are not just past injustices. I recently came across this 1964 Malcolm X quote: “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out, much less heal the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.” We have work to do to right past wrongs, and we have work to do to fix the unjust systems that continue to harm Black Portlanders and other marginalized groups to this day.
Confronting this hard year and understanding problems in our neighborhood has led to some contentiousness in our board meetings lately. I have let a few conversations go long to allow people on all sides to speak, even if it is uncomfortable. I hope to continue the dialog. I hope that it is helping people gain a wider appreciation for their fellow people. Their neighbors.