The United States of America is approaching its third week of mass protests against police brutality, white supremacy, and at least some aspects of capitalism. These protests came after a much, much smaller wave of armed protests against the measures taken to mitigate the COVID-19 epidemic, and the decision by some states to “re-open”, and largely end pandemic-related restrictions on business and leisure activities. While many at anti-racism protests have been wearing masks, passing out hand sanitizer, and trying to mitigate the spread of the disease, there’s still some fear that the protests infect more people. Similar fears exist for the customers and workers at the various businesses that are resuming their operations.
The Republican push to return to business as usual seems to be a mix of valuing life less than profit in general, and of valuing minority lives least of all. The pandemic has been disproportionately affecting Black, Latino, and Native American communities, and under a scenario closer to “business as usual”, those communities are going to be far less likely to work from home. The government could, in the name of public health, pay people to stay at home, or pay businesses to rehire those they’ve laid off, and give those people paid time off. Many other countries around the world are doing this, and a number of politicians – particularly in the left wing of the Democratic Party – have been calling for this.
The Republicans control the Senate and the Presidency, however, and have a dogmatic ideological opposition to any form of government aid. For the Republican states that are ending their lockdown restrictions, one of the big drivers seems to be finding a way to avoid increasing unemployment insurance payouts. Their stubbornness will have predictable results. Places like hair salons and restaurants will struggle to attract enough customers to pay their bills, millions will continue having trouble finding work, and even when they do, they will be forced to risk their lives for what are virtually guaranteed to be inadequate paychecks. The current trajectory, for the United States, seems to be towards at least doubling the death toll by the year’s end, along with a massive economic collapse. None of this will cause any real problems for the wealthy people making these decisions, and for many, it will be an opportunity to increase their hoards by “buying low” while mass death, joblessness, and homelessness hammers every sector of the economy.
It seems they feel that their “rational self-interest” is best served by catastrophe, coupled with their ever-expanding efforts to make it harder for people who object to actually do anything about it through the electoral system.
There’s more to be said about this than I could possibly put into one post right now. The last few months have shown a constant stream of examples of how white supremacy hurts our society, how it is still at the core of capital and power in the United States, the double standards that exist in what actions are and are not allowed based on race and political cause, and the lengths to which some people will go to maintain, celebrate, and actively promote white supremacy.
I think there’s a case to be made that capitalists in the United States and the United Kingdom are using, or planning to use, this pandemic to increase their wealth and power using the “Shock Doctrine”. A key element to resisting that, to repairing that damage, and to working toward a more just society, is understanding the role played by things like white supremacy.
As usual, Mexie has done an excellent job in discussing how white supremacy plays a central role in the American economy, and in the way this plague has been playing out. Just as climate change is a systemic issue that affects every level of society, the same can be said of white supremacy and systemic racism. It is everywhere, and affects every aspect of people’s lives.
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