2021: new year, same issues continue

Anna Holme, Commentary Editor

As America begins to transition into the new year, many are eager to forget 2020 and the countless major and/or tragic events that conspired during its time. From forest fires in Australia and California, to WWIII memes, to the COVID-19 pandemic running rampant, comparatively, it seems that things couldn’t get much worse from here.

However, this sort of mindset is damaging and dangerous. As our calendar flips to a new day, nothing has changed at all. The pandemic is still very much alive and well, and it is important for us to learn from the mistakes of 2020 and actively advocate true progress. 2021 can’t be a better year than 2020 unless we make major changes and stop maintaining complacency.


Already the prospects of 2021 seem promising, with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines being approved and distributed around the world. However, the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t guarantee the eradication of the pandemic.

“Herd immunity” is often the term used to describe the means of keeping the masses healthy, where if a large portion of a population gets COVID-19 or is vaccinated, it will cut off any possibilities of infected people being able to spread a contagious disease.

There is a practical issue with herd immunity when it comes to COVID-19, that being a combination of the mass amount of people needing to be immune, and general American stubbornness to the idea of a vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of America’s leading scientists in the effort against COVID-19, estimates that around 70 to 90 percent of the population must be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. This, mixed with (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation)  the around 27% of the American public that is hesitant or unwilling to get vaccinated, makes for a pretty concerning reality. Without a large portion of the public getting vaccinated, chances of things going back to “normal” become exponentially slimmer.

This doesn’t mean we are doomed, it just means that we have to work harder to maintain proper health precautions and understand that it is through our decisions to wear a mask, social distance, and get vaccinated that things will get better. These may seem like meaningless platitudes, but they’re more important now than ever before.

So mask up people, or we could be in this for the long haul.


The COVID-19 vaccine isn’t the only new thing to appear in 2021. With the inauguration of President Joe Biden occurring in late January, many are hopeful for progressive policy changes under his administration that weren’t possible under the Trump administration. But these changes won’t occur unless we hold Biden accountable for his actions.

Biden has a large list of plans for the future of America, but my concern lies in his willingness to complete them. Many Democratic voters are so relieved to have Trump out of office that they fail to consider what will happen with Biden in power. New does not equate to good and staying complacent, as America is right now, is a toxic ideology.

In reality, Biden has had a history of harming marginalized communities. From his opposition to school integration by busing in the 1970s, to his help in creating the 1994 crime bill which has led to continued harm to communities of color, I’m not convinced that Biden can be the progressive president many of us want him to be.

This being said, giving up on him completely is counterproductive as well. We need to make sure that Joe Biden follows through on his promises, and that we can gain as much positive change during his presidency as humanly possible.

So, the Biden administration wants to make beneficial changes? Good, we need to make sure they follow through.


In 2020, activism was at the forefront of our country’s discussion. With the Black Lives Matter protests, environmentalist discussions, and various other social justice issues being put on full display online and on social media, the way many view how activism looks has changed and become digitized. And in 2021, we need to continue maintaining our commitment to these crucial subjects, and make sure we speak up on injustices.

Just because the calendar has flipped to a new year doesn’t mean that the way America’s systems aim to oppress marginalized groups has changed. Creating long-lasting change requires a serious lifetime commitment, beyond the digital resources one has.

Activism burnout is a very real issue, but instead of viewing activism as short sprints of caring about social justice it is a long road in which one tries to better themselves and the society in which they live.

Continuing to grow, change, and passionately work towards a better future is essential each and every year, and did not just end with the end of 2020. I have a lot of hope for 2021 and the possibilities it brings, but at the end of the day it just marks another orbit of the Earth around the sun. What gives a year meaning is what we do with that time, and how we work to better ourselves and our collective society.