People need to stop using the present to excuse and ignore past injustices

The disasters of 2020 are merely the pot boiling over on problems that have long been a part of our societies

Canada needs to reckon with its past before it congratulates itself on its present. Photo: Jon Tyson/Unsplash

By: Madeleine Chan, Staff Writer

Catastrophic wildfires in Australia, a global pandemic, and worldwide anti-racism protests, amongst other impactful events, all equal a 2020 that never seems to end. At least, that’s what people keep saying. In reality, these types of tragedies and injustices happen every year and we need to stop expecting a “woke” badge of honour for thinking that this is anything new, just because they happen to be impacting our privileged ways of living.

Yes, there have been many recent global occurrences that may seem so life-shattering to individuals who haven’t experienced them before, but there are also many people who live through them daily. Even before 2020, immunocompromised people had to social distance to survive. Environmental crises like wildfires that disproportionately affect Indigenous people came in spades. Prejudice was always rampant, and folks have always been fighting to make people see that Black lives matter. Claiming that this year is somehow worse than previous ones erases these chronic issues and gives the person saying it an excuse to not do anything to help them.

This “2020 is crazy” sentiment is similar to how people answer questions with “It’s 20XX, we’re better now.” Of course it’s nice to think that we are better, but it doesn’t mean that the world actually is better, just because it’s the present. Using this phrase is just an attempt to appear progressive because there is no actual acknowledgement of the many things that are still wrong with the world. Imagine if someone asked Andrew Petter why he recently spoke out against racism and he just said, “It’s 2020.” So what? This is the same 2020 where conversion therapy is still practiced in BC, where people are drawing swastikas at SkyTrain stations, where over 150,000 litres of crude oil casually spill on Indigenous land, and people are arrested for protesting racism?

A popular example of this is Justin Trudeau’s “It’s 2015” reasoning for his “gender-balanced” cabinet. It’s great that he recognised that there should be greater gender equity, but simply having a gender-balanced cabinet does nothing to actually address systemic gender discrimination. Women and the feminist movement have been fighting for these rights for years. How is it only a big step forward for women when Trudeau opens up a few more cabinet seats to women? Using a hollow deflection such as this while not addressing the prejudiced system we still live in is just another way to appear forward-thinking, which I guess is already a part of his “Liberal” brand.

Both of these “2020” narratives only try to justify a “woke” perspective on the world. Just because we don’t have blatant prejudices like chattel slavery, residential schools, and Chinese Head Taxes anymore doesn’t mean that hidden prejudices through institutions like the prison system, the RCMP, and an education system that barely teaches us about the aforementioned prejudices are any better. This merely serves to cover the person appealing to modern times under a shroud of “wokeness” by excusing them from any wrongdoing — and any further action — simply because they acknowledged it.

2020 may continue to get crazier, but that doesn’t mean we should reify its events as some apocalyptic outlier and use it to ignore past and continuing systemic crises. We also can’t defend our ignorance by claiming the present is some harmonious haven. Realizing this year is the continuation of a past full of catastrophe will not only help to put our privilege in perspective, but also to truly work towards a future where 2020’s perpetual peril will actually be a notion of the past.