We cannot feel anything but horror upon seeing the latest video of police executing a black man. We cannot help but feel gratification at watching the guilty precinct burn. But we also must reflect that many decades of tearing down symbols of racist oppression have not caused racism to end or even abate. What else must be done?
Near 60,000 more dead by August, the latest model says. But that’s okay, the President says, the governors say. We know who will have to pay.
From the beginning of the North American project, there has been a method –divide those who labor by layers of misery, levels of payment, locales of living. And make those separations obvious, by color, by gender, by language. And teach them to hate and fear one another. As capitalism grew in sophistication, the methods of separation did also, from enslavement to eugenics to nationalism and identity politics. Some think it is being mitigated by time and education, by compassion and movements. But let this pandemic show that little has changed.
In New York City and all around the country, activists are finding creative and safe ways to demand the release of prisoners in jails, prisons, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. Yesterday, about 25 cars and as many bikers and those on foot from Close the Camps/Cosecha and other groups stood, rode, and drove around New York Governor Cuomo’s office. The cars honked and the standing protestors chanted, gaining much support from the few onlookers on the street. We demanded that Cuomo use his emergency powers to release immigrants and prisoners in NY state custody in order to save their lives. The caravan then proceeded to circle Times Square and ended at an ICE office on 26th St where Close the Camps had its first civil disobedience action last summer.
The toll of Covid-19 as of April 22 (grossly underestimated):
Global cases: 2,492,107 today
Global deaths: 171,211
U.S. confirmed cases 804,548
U.S. deaths: 40,167
Overwhelmed healthcare workers across the country are taking to the streets to demand safer working conditions and more personal protection equipment to help them fight the coronavirus pandemic.
New York City transit workers have suffered 68 deaths and 2400 illnesses due to lack of any safety measures until April 15. Amazon and other “essential” workers are protesting their lack of protection and growing illness rate.
While some states are beginning to see a leveling off of new cases, others have not yet reached their peak. Public health experts warn of any attempt to re-open society at all until case rates have fallen for at least two weeks and widespread testing is available to track any new outbreaks. The CDC warns that a second wave of infections is likely in the fall. There will be no true safety until a vaccine is widely available.
Over a week ago, the first of 22 cargo planes laden with medical supplies from China landed in New York. Nevertheless, Chinese workers continue to be derided by our President. Prior to that, a photographer captured an image of President Trump’s notes during a coronavirus taskforce press briefing; the word “Corona” was crossed out and replaced with “Chinese” in ‘coronavirus’. Trump’s latest attempt at scapegoating through racist rhetoric is not only shameful, but dangerous as well. The deep reservoir of bigotry and xenophobia in our country that Trump has been deliberately stoking since the launch of his presidential campaign has spilled over. Again.
The current pandemic has made the racial inequality in the US glaringly apparent if there was anyone who was not already aware of it. Countless articles have been written which document the much higher rate of infection and mortality for black and Latin workers in the US. Most reports, however, have responded to these glaring statistics with the hope or a vow to find a remedy, to cure the inequality which we have known has existed for hundreds of years. What few have acknowledged is that the capitalist US economy depends on racism for its functioning. Thus what we can actually expect, bar a mass movement to the contrary, is a return to hiding racial inequality and blaming the victims.
Review of The Greater Leveler: Violence and the History from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century Inequality by Walter Scheidel (Princeton and Oxford, 2017) and “Pandemics and the Shape of Human History: Outbreaks have sparked riots and propelled public-health innovations, prefigured revolutions and redrawn maps.” by Elizabeth Kolbert, from The New Yorker, April 6, 2020 edition, written March 30, 2020
In March of this year, commenting on the novel coronavirus pandemic, Vijay Prashad wrote the following in an editorial that appeared in the April 8, 2020 edition of Consortium News, an independent on-line political review:
Neoliberalism is the political philosophy that has urged governments over the course of the past 50 years to cut social spending, cut taxes and allow the magical markets to allocate resources effectively. The virus has done damage; but the real damage has been done by this political philosophy. Now, in the midst of the novel coronavirus, it seems impossible to imagine a return to the old world, the world that left us so helpless before the arrival of these deadly microscopic particles. Waves of anxiety prevail; death continues to stalk us. If there is a future, we say to each other, it cannot mimic the past.”Continue reading “Working People Have been Destroyed by Pandemics Throughout History”