The Perfect Storm

You do not want to go out in “a perfect storm.” Good things will not happen. It is probably a better idea to look up the phrase—as I did—before you use it. You will learn that “a perfect storm” is an extremely bad situation in which many bad things happen at the same time.

We are in the middle of a perfect storm. We are in quarantine, a word whose original
meaning is “enforced isolation for forty days.” (Our quarantine has been going on for more than seventy days.) We are asked to wear masks in order to protect others and ourselves from disease. We are asked to stay in our homes as much as is possible. We are asked to wait patiently until the pandemic loses its destructive power.

A pandemic is not an epidemic. A pandemic is an outbreak of disease that occurs throughout the world; an epidemic occurs in a community or a country. This pandemic has shut down our lives in ways that we could not have imagined—because life is precious, because life is our one true possession, because the will to live is our basic instinct.

The murder of George Floyd has put an end to quarantine. As an educator, I surprise
myself when I find myself thinking that to protest wrongdoing in the midst of a pandemic is admirable, heroic, and a testimony to the basic goodness of most Americans. As an educator, it is my responsibility to counsel students and teachers to obey the quarantine laws and to respect law enforcement. And I will do exactly that, but I will also address the epidemic of racism that continues to rear its ugly head in communities like ours all too often.

I am a firm believer that it does no good to overthrow all that is good about our society in order to address what is clearly unacceptable. It does no good to destroy, to burn, to loot, and to find ourselves left in the ruins, yet no closer to justice we demand. But at some point this epidemic, simmering underneath the pandemic, has to be addressed.

As great as ours country is—and it is great in spite of its faults— it has turned a blind eye to racism for nearly 250 years. We cannot afford the luxury of untamed hatred and violence toward victims of our own historical participation in slavery. The time has come—indeed, the time has passed—for acknowledgement and reconciliation.

In another year we might have gathered together to mourn, to express our anger, to speculate on the ways that we can make our world a little better for our living in it. But all I have are words. I am with you in spirit. Soon we can gather together. Life on the other side of the pandemic and the unrest can be different if we do our part: We must educate those that are ignorant to the fact that racism exists; we must have open dialogue with those communities that have fallen victim to this epidemic; we must call out those who engage in racist talk and actions; we must demand harsh penalties for those who violate the civil rights of others; we must hold our elected officials accountable for just and moral judgments. More importantly—most importantly— we must stand together to ensure that people of color are not seen as objects, but as human beings, as citizens of our great nation with all the rights, benefits, and courtesies as white people.

Standing by and doing nothing are not options. Business as unusual is no longer acceptable. We have allowed this epidemic to run its course for nearly 250 years. As with other diseases, we need a dedicated national campaign to eradicate this epidemic that has afflicted us for so long.

– Tim Harris, BHCSA Principal