It would be comforting to think that 2021 will offer a break from some of the challenges of 2020. There is an understandable yearning for some relief, some light, or at least a brief pause so that we can find a new equilibrium, whatever that may look like.
News, unfortunately, never takes a time out, and so we at Guardian US are preparing to go again and devote time and resources to the stories we think need telling in the coming year. We hope you’ll consider making a year-end gift to support our reporting in 2021.
I want to thank you for joining us on our journey in 2020 as we negotiated, alongside you, one of the most difficult, and often dispiriting, years in recent memory. At least the rollout of multiple vaccines offers some hope – leaving aside, momentarily, issues with vaccine hesitancy and logistical challenges – that the worst of the pandemic may recede towards the middle part of the year.
But what then? When America finally dusts itself down and picks itself up, what sort of shape will the country be in? Not great, I fear. The country is likely to see a Covid K-shaped “recovery”: those at the top end will do better than previously, and those at the bottom end will do worse. In short, a widening of already stark levels of inequality which often – make that always – affect communities of color first, and worst.
And so, not really a “recovery” at all.
Unless you’re Jeff Bezos, who saw his wealth rise by $48bn just between March and June. During that time, more than 40 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Two recent reports by Citigroup and Moody’s highlight the damage that America’s racial wealth gap continues to inflict on the country.
The racial wealth gap is just one of the stories we’ll be looking to highlight in 2021. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of issues that demand attention. In one of our final news meetings before the holidays, we were joined by Catherine Coleman Flowers, an author and environmental campaigner who has just published Waste – a story of the millions of Americans who live without basic sanitation. In 2020.
Let’s be clear, when we talk about “basic sanitation”, we’re talking about people living with raw sewage outside their homes – and sometimes inside. The book’s subtitle is “One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret”. In 2021, Guardian US will join that fight. It is unconscionable that in one of the world’s wealthiest countries millions endure these conditions. It is little reported, and that has to change.
These are just two on a too-long list of issues that Guardian US will want to better highlight in 2021, but there are more. “Forever chemicals” were the subject of this year’s impactful film Dark Waters, which highlighted the effect of these poisons on the environment and our bodies. More recently campaigners have referred to these as akin to an “Exxon Valdez of the bloodstream”.
The lawyer whose story formed the basis of that film recently wrote this for the Guardian:
Imagine that a small group of people coordinated the intentional manufacture and release of a lethal poison – and imagine they knew this poison had special properties that meant, once released into the world, it would be inevitable that it would make its way into the blood of virtually every person on the planet, even babies in their mother’s womb, and stay there, like a ticking time bomb.
And yet few people are properly aware of the extent and impact of “forever chemicals”. That really ought to change.
The list of stories and issues that we feel we need to better highlight goes on and on. But the most important part of our efforts in 2021 will be you. It is no understatement to say that nothing we achieve could be done without your support. If you’re among those readers whose contributions powered our journalism in 2020, please know how grateful we are. And it’s not too late to support our journalism in 2021; if you’d like to give a year-end gift, you can do so here.
But we are not only grateful for your financial support – but for the passion and engagement you show with these issues on a daily basis. That is what gives us the energy to keep going.
And keep going we will.