I have been asking myself often recently if we can have a do-over for 2020. If this isn’t the worst year in modern history we’ve collectively had as a world, it has to be close.
The pandemic, resulting economic crisis, xenophobia towards Asian-Americans, and continued senseless murders of innocent Black lives has turned a society that was already on shaky ground under a polarizing Presidential administration into seemingly utter chaos.
While no one wanted to go through any of the current crises—and I fantasize about pressing the reset button on the year—the tough truth is, this is the reckoning we needed to face.
Pretending that systemic racism does not still exist in this country is as misguided and ignorant as dismissing the fact that society has real systemic economic inequality that has hurt marginalized communities the most during COVID-19.
As for the virus, it’s not like scientists, the CDC, or even Bill Gates hadn’t been trying to warn us that conditions were ripe for something like this to happen. Pandemics are nothing new, and one would figure with all the advancements in society, we would be able to prevent such a thing.
No one wants to play “I told you so,” but now that we’re here, now that we are at absolute rock bottom, we have a decision to make. Do we curl up in a fetal position, stay in place, and hope everything rights itself on its own? Or do we pick up the pieces, wake up to the ailments around us, and be part of the change to move humanity forward?
If the term “humanity forward” sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s a phrase that former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang (no relation) uses a lot. In fact, it’s the name of the new non-profit that he launched after ending his campaign earlier this year, a campaign that I worked on.
As if it weren’t apparent before, it’s now an ethos we must all live by, if we want to leave a future for our next generation we are proud of, let alone to correct the course of our country today.
Technology, communication, travel, and so many other facets of society have made blistering advances, so that we feel as if we’re living our best lives. And yet recent events have also shown us in many ways that we haven’t evolved much since the 1960s Civil Rights era. We’ve stayed in the Stone Ages when it comes to human rights, in fact. Many Americans today aren’t even aware of The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was the first law passed by Congress that barred people of a specific race from existing in this country. When the Coronavirus hit, fueled by the President’s dog whistle calling it the “Chinese Virus,” a pronounced outbreak of verbal and physical assaults on Asian Americans was reported everywhere.
We can, and we must, be better.
Moving humanity forward means moving everyone forward. It means knowing your place in society and becoming an agent of change to make our shared world a better place for all. It’s sad that it takes devastation to remind ourselves of this, but if the events of 2020 do not wake us up to collectively do better, nothing will.
Black, White, Asian, or Brown, we are all in this together. There is a vicious cycle of hate and inequality that befalls us all, and depending on our race, our status, or our standing in life, we absolutely have different things we can do to move the needle.
If you have privilege, recognize it, and do something with it. Wake those around you up to the deep rooted issues that many don’t necessarily see. Have tough conversations, call out injustice, donate to causes that combat inequality. There are so many ways to be proactive.
Various people of color all have different challenges as minorities in America. Yes, everyone matters, but know that the black community has led the movement for opportunities not just for themselves, but for others as well. Black people have been beaten, jailed, even killed fighting for many of the rights that other minority Americans enjoy today. So #BlackLivesMatters, because it matters for humanity.
When our minds are straight, and we are conscious of others, and proactively doing the best we can, only then can we really move ahead.
Economic inequality, which has disproportionately hit communities of color hard during COVID-19, is interrelated with civil injustice. It will be up to many of our elected officials to enact change that counters this (so please vote and participate in the census this year). A universal basic income and broader access to healthcare would be a great start. But it’s also up to society as a whole to see this, so that investors, executives, people in positions of hiring and power, and even ordinary citizens can help call things out and make a shift.
If knowledge is power, we must first get everyone to see and understand the shortcomings that are happening everywhere. A large part of the set of problems we’re facing is that not everyone is aware.
We must stop making excuses though, and we must hold more accountability to ourselves and those around us.
If we all understand this, proactively demand change and evolution, and do something about it—and not treat this as a passing moment, but an attitude and consciousness we adopt—then and only then will we be on the right track towards living the most responsible, contributive, safest, and smartest lives we all should be living.
Brian Yang is an actor/producer who recently served as a Regional Fundraising Director for the Andrew Yang 2020 Presidential Campaign.
Producing credits include Snakehead, My Other Home, and the winner of Best Feature at the 2017 Sunscreen Film Festival, I Can I Will I Did as well as the documentaries Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story and Linsanity. He has also made documentary specials for both ESPN and Fox Sports. As an actor, he has been in Hawaii 5-0, The Path, The Blacklist, Westworld, Saving Face, and The Jade Pendant.