Racism Is a Deadlier Virus, Colltalers
‘We’re free but not equal,’ says civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson. He sees the coronavirus as a ‘reality check’ that exposes a disproportionately high rate of COVID-19 infections and death in black and brown communities. That’s not a glitch but a feature of race relations in America, circa 2020.
The world’s largest marine oil spill happened 10 years ago today. The lasting impact of the explosion of Deepwater Horizon’s rig and Trump’s plans to allow drilling in pristine areas will certainly dampen any cheerful mood for the week’s other environmental news, the 50th anniversary of Earth’s Day.
But let’s start by the phony controversy of the week, that of whether to open or not the economy and when. It should be a non-issue whenever there’s no exact account of infections, treatment is not reliable, and no one knows when a vaccine will be available. That is, in the U.S. and most nations. Not to the Trump administration and other far-right regimes around the world, though. They’re set to reopen for business even if kills even more people.
From an initial outrageous statement, that he had the ‘ultimate authority’ to cancel the nationwide lockdown, to a more tactical, constitutional backstep, since it’s up to state governments, not him, to decide, the events are already set in motion. Soon enough we should see some business almost-as-usual along with an inevitable spike in new cases and deaths. Ultimately, no one won the tug of war between Washington and the states, but everybody loses.
The U.S. president, a strict constitutionalist – not really – has already despatched his minions to put up ‘protests’ against the lockdown in the only way he sees fit: by carrying slogans and targeting officials with calls for ‘lock him/her up.’ Plus, by crowding streets that should be traffic-free for first responders, deluded ralliers are in fact endangering even more lives. That’s what ‘state TV’ Fox News won’t show in their round-the-clock coverage.
Don’t bother trying to understand why people whose own lives and those of their loved ones – assuming that they have some – are in mortal risk would willingly support corporate views
that place profits above human life. How long do they think it’ll take for someone they love to fall sick and die?
Take Florida, for instance, where beaches have reopened and swimming (and maybe being devoured by a shark?) were deemed an ‘essential’ activity. Who’ll tell them now that even pastors who mocked the virus in social media have died? What’s unmistaken though is that the same playbook is being applied worldwide too. In tandem with U.S. Maga-hat wearers, loud parades wreaked havoc elsewhere too, including Brazil. And the media loved it.
Speaking of which, President Bolsonaro was out again this weekend, shaking hands and smiling at the cameras. The country is on a virtual stand-still, the economy is in the gutter, and there’s an incipient coup being set up against him, but his priorities are clear: get the economy going, never mind under-reported casualties. Or that basic healthcare precautious are being provided, and enforced, in shantytowns by their own wardens, drug gangs.
Up in the Amazon, the association of indigenous people of Vale do Javari is suing to prevent fundamentalist missionaries from invading their lands to proselytize. Evangelical pilgrims have occupied the region since the 1970s, trying to ‘convert’ natives without much success other than contaminating them with ‘white man’ diseases that resulted in death and illnesses to which they had no immune defenses. They succeeded in the rest of Brasil though.
They now form one of the congressional caucuses that support Bolsonaro, along with big landowners and members of the military. Like in the U.S. and other nations, the religious right has an uncalled for influence on political decisions that reversed long-standing civil and reproductive rights. All while amassing a fortune for its messianic preachers, who have encouraged followers to ignore scientific advisories and keep congregating weekly in church.
A message to those asking to return to normal, now, now, because freedom, et.al, should be straight: there’s no normal to return to anymore. And since we’re at it, the fact you’re demanding an end for the lockdown, not for the viral threat, shows you’re not aware to whom you’re doing the bidding for.
Back in Brazil, drug trials for the malaria drug chloroquine were abruptly suspended after 11 patients die. Trump, who has a previously undisclosed financial interest on the drug, has been pushing it for months – ‘what do you have to lose?’ he said at one point – with no scientific basis to back up his claim. But so far, he hasn’t been challenged on such blatant conflict of interests, or any other for that matter, by the docile White House press corps.
Trump’s immoral decision to suspend funding for the World Health Organization for supposedly covering up for China is also preposterous. From his January tweets praising Xi Jinping’s efforts to Chinese scientists themselves, who dutifully informed WHO and the U.S. about the coronavirus onset back in 2019, all about it reeks of scapegoating, blame-shifting, and coward refusal to take responsibility. We’ll mark that as another big, fat lie of his.
We need to repeat the crystal-clear, truthfully version of what’s happened: Trump ignored warnings, did not act when he should, use the virus to rally his crowds, and thought he could skip the crisis altogether on his way to reelection. As a result of his inaction more than 35,000 Americans have died, the U.S. is the epicenter of the worldwide crisis and based on pure rational speculation, chances are that we haven’t reached a peak of infections yet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30% of all U.S. cases were of black people even as they represent only about 14% of the population covered in the study. In NYC alone, blacks are dying at twice the rate of whites, and Latinos are also falling to the virus at a much higher rate than whites or Asians. The higher rate of casualties also reflects systemic racism, as racially mixed Queens and the Bronx are the hardest hit.
4.9 million barrels of crude were spilled in the Gulf of Mexico for several months until the leaking valve was shut in the U.S.’s worst environmental disaster to date. Giant BP corporation was ultimately charged with the accident and spent a few billions paying off its guilt. Losses of wild and marine lives, however, were irreplaceable as well as thousands of closed small businesses along the gulf. Oil is still found in fish and on the ocean’s bottom.
It should make it for a sobering celebration of Earth Day, which for half a century did help raise mankind’s awareness about pollution. But it also happens as wildfires near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine continue to burn and contaminate the air of its capital Kyiv. That’s so ironic as most cities around the world have shown improved air conditions due to the suspension of global industrial activities. Not to mention, well, nukes. The coronavirus destroying lives of impoverished, black and brown communities, the elderly and the vulnerable, the sick and the working poor, health care and first responders, food workers and immigrants, is an extension of the already reigning unequal social order within the world’s richest country.
Our best shot at overcoming this is to not listening to the fox and his friends at the White House. We must stay together, at home if it’s possible, trust science, and resist. It’s murderous to reopen the economy with the potential for an explosion of new cases, while our brothers and sisters are still down, trying to survive the first wave. The Trump reelection campaign is doing great but the nation is dying. Let’s not let him get away with it. We are one. WC