My sunburn was tingling under my sweatshirt as I lay down on my best friend’s couch. On the TV, Fox News was blaring about the incredible stupidity of “libtards,” and I was doing my best to not roll my eyes.
It is difficult to have hard political conversations with the people you love.
As I conversed with my best friend’s family, I found myself entering into an argument that I couldn’t easily answer. “If COVID-19 really exists, why haven’t all the protesters gotten sick?”
Now, I knew that the coronavirus existed, and I had spent countless hours researching and educating myself about Black Lives Matter protests, so I considered myself informed on both subjects. However, I struggled to answer her question. It seemed ridiculous and downright offensive to doubt the existence of a global pandemic that had taken countless lives, but it also made sense that people marching in close proximity would be in danger.
Since then, I have learned that protest leaders usually encourage all members to wear masks and properly socially distance. Also, most protests began to occur when states initiated reopening plans, meaning that COVID-19 levels had dropped significantly due to earlier social distancing.
The fact that protests commonly occur outside also helped prevent the spread of the virus, and the relatively young age of protesters keep them safe in the midst of the pandemic. Studies have shown that younger people, while still at risk of contracting the virus, are less likely to experience severe symptoms.
That is not to say that COVID-19 cases are not currently rising. Most states across America are seeing a concerning spike in coronavirus cases, and new policies are being announced in order to further protect people from a second wave. It is impossible to know if the rising number of COVID-19 cases is coming from protests or state reopenings, but like all things, the answer is most likely somewhere in the middle.
COVID-19 may be killing Americans, but our police system is killing Americans, too. It is time for Americans, especially young students, to take a stance against the oppression that Black Americans have been experiencing throughout history. The recent protests might seem like an unnecessary risk, but they are initiating the social change that America needs in order to protect all citizens equally under the law.
Every citizen has a duty to protect themselves and others by wearing masks, limiting social contact and washing their hands frequently. COVID-19 is an incredibly serious pandemic, and all Americans have a responsibility to ensure that they are following guidelines in order to keep themselves and others safe. However, protestors also have the right to organize and march in honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless other Black Americans who have lost their lives due to racial discrimination.
Right now we are living through a deadly period of time, especially for Black Americans. With everything from COVID-19 to the Black Lives Matter protests, 2020 has proven itself to be a historic year of danger and social awareness.
Now is not the time to turn against each other and blame one another for deaths outside of our control. Now is the time to unite against discrimination and work as a national community in order to protect all members of society — whether we are protecting them from the coronavirus, police brutality or murder hornets.