I think everybody would agree that it’s been a tough couple of months. Many of us have been forced to work from home—and many others have been given the same orders, and then been laid off. We’ve had to deal with more restrictions to our daily lives that ever before; and we’ve had to socially distance from our friends and family, wear face masks in public to protect one another (literally) from one another and spend more time alone than anyone should ever have to in a lifetime. Not to mention the fact that the two-week-long phases, which are driving the Capital Region’s and the rest of New York State’s reopening plan, feel like they’re dragging along. And none of us has any idea, even after phase four is completed, whether everything will go back to normal again. What, really, is “normal” now? Will the virus come back with a vengeance this fall? What will we all do then?
Then, as if nothing could get any worse than it already had been, things came to a head on Memorial Day, when a white police officer in Minneapolis, MN, arrested and then killed George Floyd, an African-American man—the officer’s knee on Floyd’s neck until he expired—while his fellow officers stood by watched. (All the officers have since been charged in Floyd’s death.) In this day and age, when all activities seem to be captured on smartphone cameras, including this one, recorded images and words suddenly transform into an impossible-to-deny truth—one that in one sense, enrages us and tears at our inner being; and in another, reminds us that even during a global pandemic, when all of us have been forced away from one another, horrific things like this still happen.
People, who as far as I can tell might not have done so just a few weeks prior—when the virus was felling hundreds of people a day—started streaming out into the streets of America, and eventually, the world, protesting the injustice they’d seen on that video and shouting/crying, at the top of their lungs, for change. Yes, some of the protests have gotten violent, and there has been looting and other criminal activity involved in some of them, but if you’re reacting to that, you’re missing the point. What happened to George Floyd on May 25 is not the “new normal.” It’s the old one, the one that never went away, even during a global pandemic.
And yet, here I sit, an editor at a small lifestyle media company in Upstate New York, in a city where the population of African Americans is about 2 percent, and I’m faced with the gut-wrenching reality that I don’t know what to say. I’ve physically and mentally lost my voice. And I think it’s because, even if I knew what to say, I wouldn’t be sure that it was the right thing.
But I can’t, in good conscience, stand by and say nothing. So, today, I’m going to be launching a new series on saratogaliving.com—untitled for now—in which you’ll be hearing how our community has been affected by George Floyd’s death and the ongoing protests. This letter serves as its first entry. Until I post the next one, though, know that I will be here at my desk in Troy, working on the latest issues of our magazines in a state of anger, disbelief, outrage and pain, like so many other people, who might not know how to react, reach out, help or say the right thing. I’ve always been the type of person who wants to make things right—to smooth over wrongs that have been done. But this time around, I can’t. Can you?