Artwork by Jax + Dean in Brooklyn

Where will we go from here?

On Saturday, March 28th, my phone buzzed with persistent WhatsApp messages on a group chat that I am on with my school friends. In discussing the aftermath of this pandemic, I nonchalantly responded, “If a vaccine comes along, won’t everything go back to normal?”

More than two months have gone by and I sneered recalling how naive I was to believe that we will spring back to normalcy from this. With each passing day, I often reflect on where we will go from here. For instance, on a personal level — will cashless transactions become a thing? Will the handkerchief return with happy hankies instead of happy socks trending? Will we become more health-conscious after investing more time in the kitchen? Perhaps, I will resume using the Bufin soap strips (Estd. in 1972) that I used to take to school to wash my hands anytime, anywhere?!

Bufin Soap Strips

On a more societal level — if habits do take 21 (or even 66) days to form, will we stop going to gyms because it’s more economical to workout at home? Will we be scanned before entering bars and restaurants where we may be seated adjacent to mannequins? The office of the day after tomorrow arrived today so will hot-desking be a thing of yesterday? In a larger sense — will we wake up to increased expenditure and readiness in healthcare systems and crisis management?

Gravely, amid the COVID lexicon, following evictions and furloughs, systemic racism and institutionalized discrimination are inching their way into our daily vocabulary. We’re physically, mentally, and emotionally drained and our underlying cognitive functions are in a whammy. A fitting read among many others, Malcolm Gladwell’s “Talking to Strangers” elucidates some, if not all, the fundamental damaging components that unfortunately drive the discriminatory narrative in law enforcement.

Talking to Strangers — Malcolm Gladwell

The way he puts it,

“We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of cues. We jump at the chance to judge strangers. We would never do that to ourselves, of course. We are nuanced and complex and enigmatic. But the stranger is easy. If (he) can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this: Strangers are not easy.”

Gladwell’s deconstruction of past incidents commands reforms in modern policing laws and tools that disastrously resort to social pathology especially in interracial situations that are also overwhelmingly more common. As Gladwell further deciphers, prejudice and incompetence have led us to the social dysfunction we find ourselves in. Bad cops or biased cops, the liberal interpretation or the conservative, the damage is ongoing.

So above everything, the most crucial question now is — on a humanitarian level, will institutions meant to protect us become more aware of and accountable for their actions and the resulting catastrophic consequences on others? Will they stop codifying racist attitudes? Will we read, learn, educate ourselves and speak up to transform into a more thoughtful and considerate society — be it through our interactions at the grocery store, at work/school, or in a park? Sure, we can’t stand up for something we don’t know enough about so here’s a super resourceful link, that was shared by a fellow IESE alumnus, comprising daily actionable steps we can take to cultivate compassion — the only prized asset we are left with to demolish endemic racism, and not even the bare minimum, we can tap into to fortify the humane in us. I, for one, strive to lean within and clean the filth in my backyard that isn’t devoid of all kinds of discrimination reeking over generations. Alas, don’t we all hope to march into an improved normal from here, immune to all viruses but not immune to hate and injustice that are also infectious?


“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” -Nelson Mandela


May we all grow to love more!



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