When history is now

Sammy Peterson

More stories from Sammy Peterson

We are living through history.

I realize that saying something like that is somewhat of a platitude. Yet, it is true, and we all should take a step back and think about what living through history means.

Over the past several months, we first experienced the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now we are watching and participating in what can hopefully be a long overdue reckoning on civil rights.

The coronavirus alone is going to be in the history books. It shuttered schools, has a death toll of over 100,000 Americans and triggered what looks like the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, tens of thousands have electrified the nation, protesting coast to coast for police reform and a greater focus on civil rights since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody on May 25.

I know I have asked my parents about where they were on September 11, 2001. One day, the next generation will ask us where we were, what we did and how we coped with the first half of 2020.

Just six months ago, none of us could have predicted we would be where we are today. We envisioned spring break trips, AP tests in the school auditorium, seeing friends and playing team sports. Instead, most of us have been stuck at home since our last day of school — Friday, March 13th.

And while we have been stuck at home, momentous events have begun that may shape the rest of our lives. The protests sweeping the nation over the past few weeks may hopefully bring true change to the United States. Likewise, nobody knows how the coronavirus will impact us in the coming months. It may peter out, but many experts warn of a potentially disastrous second wave of infections. Moreover, a defining presidential election looms. Come November, voters will decide if Donald Trump’s brand of politics will reign for another term.

When I think about the world today, there is a clear pattern to what we are all experiencing: uncertainty. None of us know what the world will look like in just a few month’s time.

Perhaps schools and communities will reopen. Maybe not. Perhaps there will be real change in the nation. Maybe, finally, the systematic hurdles and barriers facing black Americans will start to be torn down as the United States takes a hard look in the mirror. It’s possible that there will be a new president in the White House. Maybe our country can start to heal.

But we just do not know.

It can be frightening. We always have things in life that are up in the air, but those typical uncertainties are not what we see right now. This is more than a slight disruption in our lives. Come summer, this will be the longest most of us have spent away from school since we entered kindergarten, for most of us, more than a decade ago.

We are in a moment. Nobody knows when they are going to experience an event that will one day be on an AP history exam, but we are certainly in one right now. We ought not to forget, as the chapters of unwritten textbooks and documentary scripts are spelled out before us, from our living rooms to our streets, that our world is changing.