A Year in Progress and Regress: 2021

By: Catherine He

Happy 2022! The past year has been full of exceptional ups and disappointing downs, landscaped by a global pandemic raging in the background. While the fire may not be out yet and there have been more than one instance where things seemed as bleak as ever, that hasn’t stopped the world from progressing on other fronts. Behold, The Cajor recounts A Year in Progress and Regress: 2021.


Capitol Insurrection

Ex-President Donald Trumps supporters gather outside the Capitol building in Washington D.C., United States on January 06, 2021. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

On January 6, 2021, after ex-President Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election, pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers were set to sign off on then-President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory, something that in the past had been a routine process on the road to Inauguration Day. This incident sparked outrage worldwide, as countries criticized the world superpower that was supposed to embody democracy.

Kamala Harris is elected as Vice President of the United States

Vice President Kamala Harris takes her official portrait Thursday, March 4, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

On January 20, 2021, Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, made history when she was sworn in as the first woman and first woman of colour to hold the vice president’s office in the country, marking a new era for racial diversity and becoming a role model for young girls and women of colour aspiring to extraordinary things all around the world.


Myanmar Coup

On February 1, 2021, the civilian government of Myanmar was overthrown by the Tatmadaw to form a military junta. Many of the previous government’s leaders were arrested in the early hours of the day, commencing a chaotic year in international relations. Today, citizens continue to protest against the regime, and demonstrations have resulted in thousands of deaths. This coup represents a worrisome global trend opposing democracy, with the patch of light in the darkness being the protests that further solidify the rise of civilian activism.

Texas Winter Storm

Destruction in Austin, Texas, from the deadly winter storms that knocked out power and water in February. (Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times)

In mid-February, Texas faced record low temperatures and impassible icy roads as it experienced the worst of the North American winter storm (dubbed Winter Storm Uri by the Weather Channel). The state’s electric grid operator lost control of power supply which left millions without access to electricity for days. Hundreds of people died, providing yet another stark reminder of the encroaching crisis of climate change and its devastating impacts.


Atlanta Spa Shootings

Law enforcement officials respond to the scene of a shooting at Gold Spa in Atlanta, on March 16, 2021. (Brynn Anderson via AP)

In the evening of March 16, 2021, shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlours left 8 individuals dead, including 6 Asian women. This hate crime was the most covered by mainstream media of many incidents that have surged in number since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Sydney Experiences ‘One-in-100-years’ Flood

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, was evacuated during the disaster (Phys.org)

On March 20, heavy rains battered Australia’s east coast, triggering floods that caused widespread destruction throughout the region. Thousands of Sydney residents were ordered to evacuate their homes amid the worst flood in the capital for decades, causing over one billion dollars in damage.


Derek Chauvin Found Guilty

Derek Chauvin on June 3, 2020 (Hennepin County Sherriff’s Office via AP)

Nearly a year after the death of George Floyd that caused an explosion of support for the Black Lives Matter Movement, Derek Chauvin, the police officer that murdered Floyd by kneeling on his neck, was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, resulting in a 22.5 year sentence. April 23 was a bright day for racial justice and those seeking justice for Floyd’s death.

Colombian Protests

Women shout slogans during a demonstration against government-proposed tax reform, marking May Day, or International Workers’ Day, in Bogota, Colombia (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

On April 28, a series of ongoing protests began in Colombia against increased taxes, corruption, and health care reform proposed by the government of President Iván Duque Márquez. There have been hundreds of deaths, injuries, and arrests made.


Israel and Palestine Conflict

Palestinian protesters hurl stones during clashes with Israeli forces in the Shuafat Palestinian neighbourhood in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem on May 14, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

On May 6, Palestinians began protests over an anticipated decision of the Supreme Court of Israel on the eviction of six Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, annexed Israeli territory. This sparked the May 10 outbreak of violence amid the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, marked by protests, police riot control, rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Israeli airstrikes targeting the Gaza Strip, including a tower housing the Al Jazeera office and other international media offices. The crisis prompted international protests and reactions from leaders.


Juneteenth Becomes Official in the United States

Juneteenth is observed every year on June 19 to commemorate the emancipation of African American slaves, but only in 2021 did it become an official federal holiday. The large-scale recognition of this date is a huge win in the books for African Americans everywhere.


Tokyo 2020 Olympics Begin

On July 23 at 7:00am EST, the torch was officially lit to kick off the Tokyo 2020 Olympics! The international sports competition was originally set for the summer of 2020, but due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the games were postponed to 2021. Many records were broken and it was a successful showing for many nations.


Haiti Earthquake

Buildings destroyed following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Les Cayes (Ralph Tedy Erol/AP Photo)

On August 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook the island of Haiti, causing widespread damage across the nation and the deaths of over 2 000 people. The rollout of children’s schooling was also heavily hindered by the disaster, which left over 70% of schools in southwestern Haiti damaged or destroyed. Despite the many delays and challenges, the World Food Program and other partners have continued offering support to the country.

Kabul Falls to the Taliban

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan poses a strategic dilemma for neighboring countries (DW.com)

Earlier in the year, President Joe Biden had ordered that all US troops would withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 – the twentieth anniversary of a tragedy that changed the world forever. As this was happening, the Afghanistan national army collapsed and Kabul fell on August 15. Biden proceeded in his plans to evacuate all Americans from the nation by August 31 – a deadline set by the Taliban. The withdrawal ended on August 30, leaving more than 100 Americans stranded and as many as 300 000 Afghans who may have qualified for an expedited visa. While Biden dubbed this event an extraordinary success, public approval ratings portrayed the exact opposite sentiment. A humanitarian crisis looms.


Texas Ban on Abortions After 6 Weeks In Effect

Pro-life demonstrations in Texas (BBC News)

While the ‘Heartbeat Bill’ was signed into law by Texas Governor Gregg Abbott in May, it officially came into effect in the US state of Texas in September. The legislation banned abortions after six weeks – a time when most women don’t even know that they are pregnant. It also gave any individual the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point, making it one of the most restrictive laws of its kind in the country.

Squid Game Becomes Most Streamed Netflix Show Ever

A scene from Netflix’s Squid Game (Creator: Youngkyu Park)

Squid Game, a South Korean show released on September 17, 2020, follows a desperately indebted group of South Koreans struggle through a competition to win the money they need to survive with various undertones of social commentary. The East-Asian show became an overnight sensation when it passed all expectations to achieve 1.65 billion hours viewed within the first 28 days – more watched than anything Netflix has ever released.


Sudan Military Coup

A protester holds the Sudanese flag next to burning tyres during a demonstration against the coup in the capital, Khartoum (Photograph: Mohammed Abu Obaid/EPA)

Following the unfortunate pattern of a coup epidemic, on October 25, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan led the Sudanese military to take control of the government in a military coup. At least 10 civilians were reported as being killed and over 140 injured by the military on the first day of the protests alone. Much like the Myanmar coup, the situation is continuing to evolve, though after the January 2 resignation of the Hamdok government, it seems as if chaos as not yet reached its final height.


Kyle Rittenhouse Is Acquitted

Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois teenager who shot and killed two protestors and wounded a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was acquitted of all counts on November 19 on the grounds that he acted in self-defence, though he was the individual who brought a weapon to the scene. The news sparked further conversation on the unjust legal system of America.

Oxford High School Shooting

Tate Myre, 16, Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17, were shot and killed inside Oxford High School on Tuesday, Nov. 30 (FOX2 DETROIT)

On November 30, a gunman opened fire at Oxford High School in the American state of Michigan, shooting 11 people. Four students were killed and several others were injured. This incident marked one of unfortunately many US school shootings in 2021, and pushed efforts for stricter gun control laws.


Canadian Government Bans Conversion Therapy

A woman runs under a giant rainbow flag during the WorldPride 2014 Parade in Toronto, Canada, June 29, 2014. (Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images)

On December 8, Canada passed legislation to formally ban conversion therapy. The government made providing, promoting, and profiting off of this practice illegal, effective on January 7, 2022!

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