Because we have to be the change

Monika Patel
5 min readJun 8, 2020

“I can’t breathe.” It’s become an anthem. The chilling video lasted 8 minutes and 46 seconds and impacted every human. There are so many such stories.

Memorial Day 2020 was day 75 of self-isolation for me. That day is seared in everyone’s mind as truly memorable. Because day 76 brought us the news of a death that shook the nation and began a media barrage that is no longer about Covid19 but about an older virus.

I was living in a blissful corona bubble. Content with my concocted routine. My re-imagined social life. My improving culinary skills. My non-stop blogging. My ability to devour books. Until Derek Chauvin put his knee on George Floyd. The world is reeling and my country imploded.

Enough is enough. Black lives matter. Justice for George Floyd. Change is needed. Improve the criminal justice system. Defund the police. The cries reverberate across all fifty states. The situation is not new. Another popular hashtag is #Saytheirname. Because of Breonna Taylor. Eric Garner. Treyvon Martin. Rodney King. Michael Brown. Tanisha Anderson. Akai Gurley. Tamir Rice. Freddie Gray. Walter Scott. Ahmaud Arbery. Philando Castile. Sandra Bland. And George Floyd. Even while he has become the symbol of this movement, to be frank, he’s not martyr material as seen in a video that went viral. But he is the catalyst and that’s the crucial point. No one deserves to die that way.

What’s different this time is that people are trying to get to the crux of the issue.

What’s different this time is people are fed up of this constant reprisal.

What’s different this time is people are home and have time to protest.

What’s different this time is there’s a pandemic.

The pandemic. For months people stayed home socially distanced, tried to flatten the curve. Now they’re taking to the street. Forgetting social distancing. Most wear masks, some don’t. But no one seems to care. The virus is being defeated by a bigger, older, more dangerous disease. Racism. Covid 19 imprisoned people in their homes. The economy was plummeting. Unemployment statistics took a deep dive. People were stir crazy. And the virus was disproportionately affecting people of colour. They were losing jobs, falling sick and more exposed because they were suddenly essential. It was no longer enough to be compliant. It was time for voices to be heard.

My neighbourhood is overrun by choppers. The hospital that battled Covid is now mute witness to people marching back and forth. Peacefully. My television set spews out images of violence and rioting. My social media feed is inundated with atrocities and criminal acts. And it makes me fume. A few bad apples are derailing the movement. Just like a few bad cops are giving the police force a bad name. For as many looters, there are a thousand times more people who are peacefully protesting. For those cops who are pushing, shoving, shooting and using their baton, there are many more kneeling in solidarity. And we need to focus on that.

Let’s not lose focus or momentum. The question we all need to answer is what do we do to really bring about change. Yes we need to educate ourselves about the issues. And put ourselves into the shoes of the discriminated. It’s not comfortable facing reality, watching the movies. I cringed at a show that was so disturbing but I still pushed ahead. It never struck me to tell my kids how to talk to a cop, go to the corner store, talk to a white girl, go for a jog and do a number of errands we all take for granted. And I’m brown. Meanwhile in every black home, this dialogue is a part of daily routine. Why? How can we change the narrative?

I grapple with this as I read, consume news, look out my window, speak to horrified friends, watch documentaries. I weep, fume, ruminate and have become an emotional basket case. Corona didn’t break my spirit. But this issue has left me discombobulated. My black friends give me solace. Begging me not to lose hope. Urging me to remain positive. I will. I know. But fourteen days of being bombarded by sirens, chanting and whirring of helicopter blades can take a toll. Rest assured, I’m not worried about my mental health. I’ll be fine. I just need time to process, understand how I, a person of colour and a brown woman, can make a difference.

It’s an election year. And on either side of the spectrum, voters are dissatisfied. I’m tired of speaking against the man in charge. He’s a classic case of someone who’s abdicated all responsibility. A narcissistic misogynist. Pointing fingers and ranting will not help.

There is a lesser evil. Maybe we need to vote for him BUT hold him accountable. And study all the candidates down the line. This is our wake up call. It’s not enough to vote for the big guys because the local ones matter more to our daily lives. Let’s vote out the old and corrupt guard and bring in fresh blood.

The rally for defunding police, bringing criminal justice reform, improving policing are valid. Many governors are passing immediate orders regarding choke holds and other restraining methods. These changes are not in the hands of the common citizens. Let’s get acquainted with the political language and force new plans and policies. Let’s take those demands off the streets and into the corridors of power. It can be achieved with the right people put into place. Let’s channelize our anger into something more constructive. And continue monitoring. We can no longer afford to remain silent. We need to share stories. Voice our thoughts. Fight for justice. We can no longer be conflicted. The path ahead is clear.

Rumi said, ‘Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I have begun to change myself.” His words ring true across centuries. But in the process of our metamorphosis, we need to make sure our change is directed towards the betterment of our environment. This is now a global movementas the world unites in protest and some international governments have begun steps to cement this change.

I have hope in the generation to come. They’re the ones lining our streets. They’re the ones speaking up. They’re the future.

They are the change we want to see.