The world stopped!
This is the best way to describe the year 2020, as it relates to the unsuspecting changes and challenges we collectively faced as a city, nation and a world.
From a deadly worldwide pandemic that led to many deaths and illnesses to major protests against police brutality, murder and racial injustice; a record number of catastrophic hurricanes; a controversial U.S. president who was impeached and lost a re-election bid in historic fashion; and much more. The year 2020 will go down in the record books as one for the ages.
No one could have predicted that we would experience a tumultuous and unprecedented year like we did, and if someone would have predicted it, the majority of us would never have believed it.
Everyone was impacted. No one was immune. All of our lives were changed – literally.
Now, going into 2021, there is an anticipated hope that things will get better and that things will pivot in a different direction for the better – definitely not for the worse.
Let’s start with the 100,000 pound elephant in the room now known to us all as COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been unlike anything we have ever seen in our modern-day lifetime and has disproportionately affected the African American and LatinX communities, as far as the percentage of those infected, the percentage of those going into the hospital and the percentage of those who have been dying.
In closing out the year of 2020, as of December 28th, there were roughly 80,118,070 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, with approximately 1,746,690 deaths. Here in the U.S., there were roughly 19,112,958 confirmed cases and approximately 336,779 people who died from the unrelenting virus. In Texas, there were roughly 1,668,597 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with the state coming in second (26,472) with the most COVID-19 deaths behind New York (37,152).
From the onset when the White House administration was made aware of the COVID-19 outbreak originating and coming from Wuhan, China, to when it ended up turning the U.S. upside down, President Donald J. Trump ignored critical warnings that could have mitigated the devastating results of this pandemic and possibly saved lives.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an official health advisory about COVID-19 on January 8th and the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was reported on January 20th. Trump continued to play politics with the virus, which many believe cost him the presidency in November. All-in-all, the number of people contracting the virus is still going extraordinarily high and people are still dying as a result of it.
To close out the year, the U.S. has embarked on the largest mass-vaccination effort in the history of this country, with the Food and Drug Administration authorizing two of the first COVID-19 vaccines – the Pfizer-BioNTech on December 11th and the Moderna vaccine on December 18th.
Health-care workers, who are most at risk of exposure to COVID-19, and residents at long-term-care facilities have been identified as the first groups to receive the vaccine, with most Americans probably being able to receive their vaccination by June 2021.
Speaking of President Trump, his days are practically numbered, as he has contested the results of the November election in the actual courts and in the court of public opinion. Unlike in 2016, where Trump was able to pull off a stunning victory, the polarizing president was unable to provide another November surprise and serve a second term.
Not only was Joe Biden elected as the 46th president on Tuesday, November 3rd, his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris also cemented her name in the history books, becoming the first female and first African American Vice President-elect in the nation’s history. She also becomes the first graduate of a Historically Black College & University (HBCU) to hold this position.
Trump’s defeat served as a sigh of relief for many Americans who wanted significant change at the presidential level. And as was aforementioned, Trump did himself no favors in botching the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic; being impeached by the House of Representatives; his poor dealings and remarks regarding the racial unrest in the country; the countless political and business scandals; his loss of global respect; and other incendiary actions and statements he has displayed throughout his entire presidency.
Ultimately, these things led to his presidential demise.
With two special runoff elections for Senate seats in Georgia that could flip the Senate, along with Biden and Harris about to take the helm with a Democratic-controlled House, it will be interesting to see if both major political parties will work together to move this country forward and finally address many of the key concerns of African Americans.
Oh, and speaking about racial unrest in this country, how can we ever forget the words “I can’t breathe!” uttered by yet another Black man on video, nearly six years after we witnessed the same thing infamously captured on video of Eric Garner being choked to death by a New York police officer. That man was George Perry Floyd, Jr. from Houston, Texas.
The world was turned upside down after video of Floyd was released showing a Minnesota police officer’s knee continuing to be lodged in the back of his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, all while three other officers stood and watched and did nothing to assist.
Already handcuffed, unarmed and not resisting at all, the 46-year-old native Houstonian can be heard on video uttering his very last words, “I can’t breathe” as Floyd pleaded for his life to then-Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, to remove his knee from his neck.
Of course, that removal of the knee from Floyd’s neck never happened and he tragically died, prompting a response like the world had never seen. There were countless marches, protests and candlelight vigils that took place all over the world, with sweeping legislative changes and a newfound commitment by entities and individuals to address racial injustice and police brutality.
The death of George Floyd served as a textbook example of why Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee and demanding for Americans, regardless of race, to address the very issues that Black people had been complaining about for decades.
The name, George Floyd, has become synonymous with an ever-increasing demand for justice and he impacted the world and awakened the souls of many people all across the globe who traditionally turned a blind eye to the historical plight of Black people in the U.S., specifically as it relates to racial injustice and police brutality.
Then we have the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor that shook us to the core in 2020.
Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, went for a jog during the day on February 23rd and was accosted and assaulted by three White men, who decided they would take matters into their own hands after believing he looked suspicious.
On video, Arbery was hunted down like a dog and helplessly shot in cold blood. Sadly, although law enforcement officials had received video of the crime caught on camera, they refused to make any arrest until nearly three months after he was killed.
If it wasn’t for a member of the media investigating the story and the video being leaked to the public, it is not unreasonable to assume that these three men would be arrested at all.
Then there is the story of Breonna Taylor, where after nearly 200 days of protests and demands for the decision makers in Kentucky to arrest the police officers who killed her, a Grand Jury chose not to indict any of the officers involved in the tragic shooting death.
I mean, the family did receive a $12 million civil settlement and one of the officers was charged with shooting into an apartment after a late-night no-knock warrant led to her death, but it wasn’t Taylor’s apartment that the officer was charged with shooting in, which added more salt to the wound. In many people’s eyes, justice was not served, as none of the six officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor were charged with any crime.
Add those things to the record number of named tropical storms (30) that formed during the 2020 hurricane season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and it made the year 2020 an even more chaotic year. Literally, a dozen storms made landfall in the U.S., with five of them hitting the state of Louisiana, and six of them being higher than a Category 3 storm upon landfall.
It is probably safe to say that many people are grateful to make it out of the year 2020 in one piece, but more importantly, it is probably safe to also assume that everyone can probably agree on the same New Year’s resolution – a hope that 2021 is a far better and different year than the one we all just experienced. Let us all hope and pray it is!