As Black History Month nears its end, I think about where we've been as a community over the last year, and where we're going.
March 2021 will remind all of the trauma of 2020 — the COVID-19 pandemic and police violence.
The trial of Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd begins in March. One might consider this to further traumatize our people and be the tipping point.
The irony of a trial rooted in police violence and racism beginning on the heels of Black History Month is not lost on me. Black Minnesotans may be forced to endure as our community and country debate, dehumanize and victim-blame a Black man with an imperfect history. We will likely hear how they spin Floyd's health comorbidities as a cause of his death, while simultaneously ignoring how they've contributed to the health disparities in our city.
But have all sought to understand our grief and anger before pointing fingers and placing blame?
The harrowing experiences of this past year are about more than police violence. They are cruel acts from the medical community, our employers and our legislatures. It's the violence of our society, which lacks a sufficient safety net for the most vulnerable among us.
Chauvin's trial, though significant and necessary, deals with only a part of a larger system of immorality. We cannot discuss harm done against Black bodies without looking at all forms of violence that plague our community and how each converges into a system that kills us.
For Black Minnesotans, we've seen a pandemic disproportionately impact our communities and families. We've witnessed record job loss among Black women, who are continuing to be pushed out of the workforce altogether. Access to affordable child care, paid family leave and remote work were never a reality for us, and the absence of these needed resources continues to cause harm.
Black women have a higher risk of eviction than white women across the country. Poverty, evictions and inadequate employment are all violent acts, especially against Black and Indigenous communities and people of color.
Beyond the economic effects of the pandemic, we've seen how the virus itself has disproportionately impacted Black communities. Black Minnesotans are hospitalized and are dying at higher rates than white counterparts. And yet, the vaccine efforts in our state have failed at prioritizing the most vulnerable groups for distribution. Failing to protect and serve our community, after accounting for increased risk, causes harm during a pandemic that so readily kills us.
Nonetheless, this trial comes at a time where we're already in a state of dysregulation, trying to survive through a violent system. Our bodies, both emotionally and physiologically, are overwhelmed.
During the next couple months of this trial we will be told to remain calm and trust the process of law, which is almost laughable. The gaslighting will hurt. Meanwhile, the trial will come and go and the underlying issues with our current system will remain untouched.
The trial won't redistribute resources into our communities or improve access to health care. It won't provide adequate child care for working Black mothers. It won't provide affordable mental health services to underserved and over-traumatized communities.
Our community is collectively grieving over the trauma of the last year, while simultaneously living through more of it. We still grieve for Breonna Taylor and the countless other families and communities that have been through this before. For Black Minnesotans, the re-traumatization will last throughout the spring as the trial exacerbates our continued struggle. To get through, we'll need to buckle down on community care.
We've seen community care in action at the intersection of 38th and Chicago all year. Thanks to the ancestors we've celebrated over this last month, we already have the blueprints of how to march on. Now is the time to establish care plans with our immediate and larger communities. We'll have to intentionally prioritize our own safety, build connection, and hold space for one another in order to regulate and cope.
When our employers, schools and representatives fail to provide safe environments, we will strive to build our own. The work will continue, and as our history has shown, so will we.
Grace Goins lives in Minneapolis.