One day as I was going to get ice cream with friends— our new pandemic ritual — I realized I forgot my mask. You’d think by now, going into our seventh month of needing a mask just as much as needing air to breathe, grabbing one before leaving the house would be instinctual. A little ashamed at the oversight, I walked back up to my room and as I grabbed my mask wondering: What else did I forget this year? And more broadly, what have we forgotten?
Much like me, I saw a mom toting two young children on each hip who did not realize until seeing the “NO MASK NO ENTRY” sign on the door that she was mask-less. I didn’t say anything to her that day, but I’ll never forget the look she gave me — her face seemed to ask me if I’d snitch on her if she went inside the store anyway?
While I have been quick to give a side-eye to people in public without their masks and write them off as the “anti-maskers” I publicly demean on Instagram, I realize I had forgotten to allow room for human imperfection.
Someone not wearing a mask could look like the masses who protested against mask mandates in downtown Calgary, Alberta, despite the rise in new cases in the area. But it could also look like the single mother who already had so much on her plate, she forgot to make room for a mask.
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete,” said Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her famous Ted Talk.
Many of us have forgotten there are real people outside of the single stories we’ve created on social media.
In remembering what we forgot, my mind goes to months of uproar on social media about racial injustice: For the first time in a while it didn’t feel like Blacks vs. whites, rather “everyone vs. racists.” However, this didn’t come without a great suffering for Black teens. Every time we opened Instagram or Twitter there seemed to be a photo or video of young, Black “protestors being pepper sprayed and attacked.” White Black Lives Matter Activists in Kenosha, Wisconsin, were even killed by a teenage vigilante from Illinois.
White allies and Black activists have been calling out police brutality by reposting images and videos of Blacks being beaten or killed by police. According to Vox, this was so detrimental to the Black teenage psyche that Dr. Brittani James said she ends patient visits by asking them "how they’re coping with being Black in America," Vox reported. What if, instead of giving hateful energy to police, we gave loving energy to Black men and women?
We forgot the power of love.
Although it was everywhere, and everyone was talking about it— I think the greatest thing we forgot in 2020 is we were all going through this pandemic together. We are all living through the crisis, the protests, the pain— all of it, together. And that should’ve been enough to unify us.
But just like my mask, I remembered this just in the nick of time.