Two years later: What will we remember about the pandemic?

Mari's Memo

April 2022 – They say that memory is a fickle thing. Days after the mask mandate in Oregon lifted, I noticed how some people had already ditched their masks. At restaurants or shops where they still require masks or proof of vaccination, I saw people scramble to find these items only to end up wearing the disposable ones offered by the shop or leaving. This made me wonder what will we remember most about the pandemic.

Will we remember the deaths and massive disparities? Will we remember the community and collective efforts to help the vulnerable? Will we remember what we said to ourselves about self-care? Heck, will we remember to wash our hands?

The stories that we craft about the last two years will determine how we move forward. Here are a few things from the pandemic that I will hold on to:

  1. Words matter. When the former president, other leaders and media personalities started calling the coronavirus by a name that associated the disease with a group of people, it led to the rise of violence against that group of people. It exacerbated existing prejudiced attitudes against Chinese, Asians and other immigrants. Since March 2020, there have been nearly 11,000 reported anti-Asian hate incidents.
  2. We must structure our systems and opportunities in an equitable way. The pandemic showed us that the vulnerable can be even more vulnerable. It reminded us that racism and discrimination lead to unfair exposures to dangers and death. As we move forward, we need to create approaches and strategies that respond to the different needs of a particular group. We must remember to exercise empathy and compassion.
  3. Not being racist is different than being anti-racist. The murder of George Floyd changed the world. Racial injustice isn’t new. However, the response to the video of his horrific death sparked a movement unlike any other. It drove a shift in mindset, in understanding and in behavior. It expanded our definition of anti-racism in that being a passive bystander is no longer enough.

What will YOU remember about the pandemic?