Thoughts on the Year 2020

Blog by Danielle Balmelle, class of 1995

Danielle and her family moved to France in 2020 in response to the global pandemic that highlighted racial inequities in health care and access to health resources in the United States. Their decision to relocate was further influenced by recent acts of police brutality against Black Americans. 

 

I’m certain I don’t speak just for myself when I say that 2020 presented unprecedented challenges. I’ve worked from home for many years, but my kids are now home for online school due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The time together has allowed us to have many in-depth discussions regarding the racial disparities in health care, the systemic racism as still upheld by the racial contract, and the consequences for those who dare to challenge the inherent white supremacy of the contract.

My family and I have ongoing discussions about the Federal, state, and local response to this pandemic that has disproportionately disrupted or ended life for so many Black and brown people. I endeavor to provide them with the historic backdrop as to why this is happening in the US, and my children are discouraged. They easily see the staggering sense of complacency of the American collective who have done little to challenge the status quo and, in some cases, openly question the existence of the systemic racism that has contributed to these disparities. We all question if it is bad for Black people the world over or is this just on brand for America. As a spouse and children of a French National, we had the option of traveling to France even during the pandemic so after much deliberation, I made the necessary preparations to relocate so we could experience life outside of the US vacuum.

 

After being here for more than four months, we agree that decision has served us well. Although no country is without issue, we find it refreshing to live in a nation where we know that Black communities aren’t being hollowed out by the COVID-19 virus and that Black people are not losing their lives for simply being black at the hands of those hired to serve and protect.

 

We’ve been under various forms of a national lockdown and curfew, but we haven’t seen or heard of protests on any scale against mask wearing, business closures, and other safety measures that protect the entire nation, especially those most vulnerable. It is frustrating at times, but it is well worth every inconvenience. We are witnessing how France's coordinated national response strengthens the nation's ability to coalesce around a goal to protect all and to combat an enemy that is indiscriminate in the choosing of victims  - but is a death sentence depending on your skin color and your zip code in the US. Our mobility over the last three months has been very limited, but we couldn’t be more grateful for our health, safety, and the ability to just be and breathe.