Our community and nation have been through much, so much it can often feel like things are coming apart at the seams – a global pandemic, economic dislocation, and a spotlight on how little progress our nation has made toward the promise of equality, safety and opportunity for people of color.
Our responsibility to our community is great. The work of racial healing, keeping COVID-19 at bay, and working to help those who are suffering from economic hardship will be ongoing for years. If there was ever a time to be mindful of the guidance to love our neighbors as ourselves, this is it.
Our work on racial healing will require that we come to terms with our past and how much of it remains in our present. For those of us who are white, that work will involve understanding that generations of white people created and perpetuated racism, often consciously, sometimes unconsciously. Racism exists because of us, and it’s on us to end it.
The pandemics of COVID-19 and racism are tragically intertwined, with the ruthless suffering caused by COVID-19 falling disproportionately on people of color. That reality means that if you are African American or Latino your chances of becoming sick or dying from COVID-19 are mercilessly higher than your white neighbors. For this reason, we must all do everything in our power to slow the spread of this deadly disease, even if we don’t feel we are personally as vulnerable to it as others; we all have a role to play.
Dane County has responded more vigorously to COVID-19 than any other county in the state and most states in the nation. Our response has not been without hardship, but it is necessary and it is working. Everything we do, every step we take, is for the purpose of keeping our residents safe.
We were the first in Wisconsin to issue stay at home guidance and first to issue a mask mandate. We have the strongest science-based guidelines in the state, and we’ve had much success keeping the virus relatively under control—so much so that we must spend much time urging people not to become complacent because this virus can flare with a vengeance when you let down your guard.
Our success has not been without sacrifice. It’s impacted how and if we work and how our kids learn. It’s tested our tempers and strained our psyches.
But if we remain mindful that our enemy is the virus, not one another—if we are guided by compassion, and remember that our sacrifices are not just for ourselves but for others—we can look back on this period of our lives knowing we did our best as individuals and as a community, for our community, and for those who needed us most. And we can use that experience moving forward, after the worst of the COVID-19 crisis has passed, to help those in need and to help our community heal.