This is Not How You Do It

If you are part of the paper planner community, you know things are blowing up this week. Easy Reader News published the article, Mira Costa High Class of 2020 forges new tradition from pandemic on June 14, 2020. This became a planner community issue because the article features Erin Condren (a member of the parents’ graduation committee) and her twin children (graduating seniors who are student body president and senior class president, respectively). Erin is the founder of one of the most well-known planner companies, which bears her name.

It points out how the pandemic has affected this graduating class and what they have done to celebrate despite state regulations and recommendations from healthcare experts.

The initial plan from the school administration was to “present students their diplomas in the football stadium in groups of 50.” Small groups, socially distanced, and livestreamed, with no parents in attendance to further reduce the density of people at the event. This was in line with their county’s health department guidelines. This plan was ultimately rejected by the health department on June 8th.

Instead, they had the graduates arrive in individual cars by family, walk across the stage and receive their diplomas alone. The family could roll down the car windows and take photos, but could not get out of the cars. All parties were to wear masks. This was June 11th.

The week before the health department rejection, on June 2nd, people marched from Manhattan Beach to protest against systemic racism and support the Black Lives Matter movement.

The county allowed the march in protest, but disallowed the original graduation plan, so after the school’s scheduled graduation event – which took 7.5 hours – the graduates gathered and “marched” together, while ignoring social distancing and primarily not wearing masks.

I feel for the graduates. They were not able to participate in a lot of the traditional “senior year” activities. Social distancing is difficult. Being separated from your friends is lonely. It feels like this has been an eternity.

This wasn’t something that the students did in secret, but it was reported that the parents were cheering from nearby balconies. The Vice Principal of the high school was at the beach in support of this gathering. I have more softness in my heart for the ignorance and self-focus of the graduates vs. the adults – consideration of others is something you learn and grow in as you live.

BUT…. What About Public Safety?

Restrictions were put in place for public safety reasons. Viruses do not care about traditions, celebrations, jobs, grief, or any other consideration – no matter how honorable. They just replicate. I truly believe that the actions taken by governments and agencies around the world have been done in good faith, to try and preserve life. Individual decisions may have turned out to be good or bad, but I believe they attempt to make the best possible decision with the information available at the time. We have seen lots of people die from COVID-19, and many others get very sick. We have seen our health system put under an enormous strain. We have seen record numbers of people out of work and scared about how they are going to pay rent and put food on the table. We continue to see workplaces having to make difficult decisions in order to remain open and financially viable. We haven’t yet seen the full impact of this pandemic.

So, for me, to so blatantly disregard the health officials in this area and decide to gather in a large group without any masks is not just inadvisable, but morally wrong. It is a slap in the face to the medical workers and first responders who are trying to flatten the curve, so that if you come down with this illness, they will have the capacity to treat you. It’s offensive to people who put their lives and the lives of their family members on the line because they have jobs that put them in contact with people who have COVID-19 or who may be asymptomatic carriers of the Coronavirus – by doing this, you are directly increasing the risk to them. It is an affront to the people who have lost their jobs because we stayed home and their business lost money. Is this celebration more important than their suffering?

BUT…. What About Systemic Racism Issues?

“The county could ban students from gathering but not from marching.”

I’ve seen many people talk about this event as a hallmark display of white privilege in action. And I tend to agree with them. I do not believe that if a similar event were to happen among a group of black high school graduates, that they would be lauded in a news article praising them for finding a way to beat the system.

Protests against systemic racism are necessary and the experiences of black people need to be heard. Our society needs to change. Trivializing this by using a co-opting a “march” in order to get around public safety restrictions is … irresponsible? horrible? appalling? I cannot find the right word for how I feel about that.

Protesting and marching isn’t for just any reason. It’s because the subject matter is important. In this example, it wasn’t that the students were not being allowed to celebrate their graduation. In fact, this happened an HOUR after their sanctioned graduation event. Being able to have the party you want isn’t a right that you protest about. Actual human rights and human dignity are what you protest about and march for.

BUT…. What About Disregard for the Law?

“We even talked about putting hula hoops on the beach for each student, so if the authorities said it was an illegal gathering, they could start hula hooping and say it was an exercise class.”

Erin Condren

Teaching children and young adults to lie to cover-up an illegal activity. That’s what this statement is. It’s not cute. It’s not helpful. And it’s not fair to the countless people across the world who ARE doing the right thing.

It’s also in horribly bad taste considering the current social climate regarding official authority, police brutality, and systemic racism. I don’t know how a parent can casually advise a child to lie to police for an activity they know is illegal, when other parents have to counsel their children on how to appear docile and cooperative during a routine traffic stop because there is a real concern that they could be hurt, abused, or killed because of their skin color.

What Do We Do Now?

I’m disappointed and angry, as I know many other people are. Certainly a lot of people in the planner community own her products. I don’t necessarily feel that abandoning them would do a lot of good – that money is already spent. You can choose to not advertise for her company or not to purchase from her company. You can choose to purchase from black companies or anti-racist companies. It was the individual who contributed to this event, and not the people who work for the brand that bears her name, but there is something to be said about finances being a motivator for change.

I believe that people can change and grow and I believe in the power of and need for forgiveness when an injustice or sin has been committed.

For the larger issues that this event revealed, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few suggestions:

  • We need to stop being selfish and think about how our actions impact others.
  • We – especially white people in a position of privilege – have to listen and learn. Then, act as allies, supporters, and encouragers.
  • Act with your wallet. Support black businesses, give to charities that help to dismantle systemic racism.
  • Educate yourself.
  • Add more cultural diversity into your life. Are you reading and watching content with diversity?
  • Do not let microaggressions slide or think that it is not your responsibility to stand up for what is right.
  • Pray.
  • Forgive.
  • Help each other heal.

Every single person has worth and dignity in the eyes of God. The holiest thing you will ever encounter in your life – outside of God Himself – is another human being.

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