Editor’s note: blinding light of privilege

"COVID-19 turned our world upside down, but the breaking point of George Floyd’s death made it clear that the world was already upside down for many."
Black Lives Matter Protest
Protesters linked arm in arm to form a barricade.
Photo by Beth Skogen

I often have to squint through the blinding light of my own white privilege. Sometimes it takes a while for my vision to adjust. Often when it does, I’m once again blinded by tears. I won’t ever be able to fully see or understand the Black experience, and my peripheral anguish will never compare. But I will continue to strain my eyes and wipe away tears so I can help envision a world that’s better than the one George Floyd and so many other Black Americans lived and died in.

Already, 2020 has been a stressful year. Mentally, physically and in every degree imaginable. This month’s cover story is about how simple things — unflashy displays of love, a tail-wagging pup or a well-baked loaf of bread — helped some people cope with stress specifically related to navigating quarantine during a pandemic.

But when we talk about the mental exhaustion, fear, anger and anxiety experienced by Black people not just after the death of George Floyd but for every instance of injustice before and after, there is no stress relief that simple. April Kigeya, a guest columnist, gives her quick take on dealing with stress.

COVID-19 turned our world upside down, but the breaking point of George Floyd’s death made it clear that the world was already upside down for many. What’s been brought to the forefront in these past few months — in the kind of global civil movement I have not previously experienced in my lifetime — is that racism is an even more vile and hard-to-eradicate virus among us. And unlike the coronavirus, this sickness has had hosts in plain sight for hundreds of years, and it will take more than a few months and an attempted quarantine to fix.

In a way, COVID-19 has prepared us to become uncomfortable. But unlearning racism once and for all will be a lot harder than having to wear a mask or adjust our routines. I’m thankful for the perspective and education the Black Lives Matter movement is providing me, and I’m inspired and hopeful to see efforts everywhere I look to help each other do better and be better — from listing Black-owned businesses to support, to pointing out weak points in allyship, to planting the seeds of systemic change, to continuing hard conversations. But it’s not about trying to do better anymore — it’s about needing to do better now.

I choose to believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel brighter than my own white privilege. A light that shines on a world in which my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will read about modern day racism alongside slavery and genocide in their history books and think of it as an impossibility.

Andrea Behling is editor of Madison Magazine.

Click here to read more stories about how we coped with stress during coronavirus.