Or does the question come too early? Does the question come at a time when we can’t imagine what’s beyond the horizon because we don’t know how far out the ocean goes? When will things go back to normal? When will this end?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but it is still important to ask ourselves what UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) will look like when students start coming back on campus. I think it’s safe to say things won’t be the same anytime soon, for I foretell a storm.
That human warmth you feel as you sit down on a recently sat-on chair for class that was once a mild discomfort you forgot after five minutes, now turns into a lingering disturbance that you can no longer put away in the back of your mind (a reminder that you have to be paranoid about invisible germs and viruses everywhere).
Some of us now may know people who have caught the COVID-19 and survived. But unfortunately, by the end of the year, many of us will know someone who has had a family member or close friend die from COVID-19.
This will most likely hit our Black and Brown communities the most. How will we be able to look at each other, knowing the system failed and continues to fail people of color in a time of great need? Will our already marginalized Hispanic and Black communities be able to stand strong? Or will they crumble even further, experiencing the economic struggle of this pandemic the hardest?
I know I will not be able to look at a resident hall janitor or dining hall cook or any UCSB manual laborer the same, knowing our school could’ve done more to ensure that these workers were financially and physically secure. It was only when we finally deemed them “essential” service we thank them for their service when they have always been the heart pumping the blood of this school.
How will we collectively mourn the incomprehensible loss of life during this time when social distancing will always keep us apart at some level, physically and emotionally. Will we be able to learn to grieve something that was impossible to imagine, yet impossible to forget? Or will we fall into the darkness?
Will a fellow Gaucho who has lost a father or brother or mother or sister to this unfeeling virus be so agonized and heartbroken, that the only way they know how to deal with the pain is to scapegoat and attack a minority group at school? How will we help the victim? Who is the victim anymore?
I can only imagine the uncomfortable stares I will receive when I walk out of Davidson Library with my face mask, revealing my oriental eyes, heading to the Arbor to get some snacks, only to see a scared cashier when I hand them my EBT card and Yerba Mate.
From the mundane to the devastating, the coming hate crimes against Asians will hit UCSB and IV like a tsunami hitting a sewage factory. Assaults, vandalism, and discrimination towards Asian, American-born, and international will become common e-mail crime alerts.
Traditionally white college fraternities that foster toxic masculinity will incubate racism and fester xenophobia like an untreated wound within our community. The UC administration will once again turn a blind eye to its own mission statement because of the mutual parasitism between school and fraternities as a systemic whole. And as college students, we unfortunately care more about partying than keeping solidarity with our fellow brothers and sisters.
I hope I am just crying wolf, that I am ignorant and/or wrong because I certainly don’t want to be right about any of these things. But if I am right, we can watch and let it all happen like Cassandra standing before Troy — watching it all burn — or we can do something about it.
I call upon all UCSB students, faculty, and staff to reflect on what we can do to make sure UCSB doesn’t succumb to fear, hatred, and despair. I do not know what this will entail, but I hope it starts a conversation.