Zipporah Osei, Mollie Simon, Moiz Syed, Lucas Waldron: We Are Tracking What Happens to Police After They Use Force on Protestors (ProPublica)
These 68 videos show clear apparent instances of police officers escalating violence during protests. Most departments refused to share details about investigations and discipline or even officers’ names. Here’s what we learned about each case.
On May 25th 2020, Derek Chauvin held his knee on the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, resulting in Mr. Floyd's death. I invite visitors to sit quietly and reflect for this same length of time. It feels like an eternity. A partial transcript of the incident is provided throughout.
Rebecca Solnit: As the George Floyd protests continue, let's be clear where the violence is coming from (Guardian)
Using damage to property as cover, US police have meted out shocking, indiscriminate brutality in the wake of the uprising.
The distinction between damaging or destroying human beings and inanimate objects matters. But it’s not simple. People trapped inside a burning building break down the doors to escape; an estranged husband with a restraining order breaks down a door to further terrorise his ex-wife. The same actions mean different things in different situations. Martin Luther King famously called riots “the voice of the unheard” – and as the outcry of people who have tried absolutely everything else for centuries, property damage means something very different from merely malicious or recreational destruction. When they riot, the black people most impacted by police brutality and by four centuries of poverty, dehumanisation and deprivation of basic rights and equality, are more like people trapped inside that burning house trying to break out.
There is no easy way to distinguish between ardent white supporters of a black uprising and black bloc-style white people who revel in property destruction, taunting the police and escalating situations (before often slipping away before the police crack down). They are anti-authoritarians opposed to police brutality and the overreach of the state, and should not be confused with the rightwing authoritarians who many fear will use the pandemonium as cover for their own agenda, which could include creating more chaos.
The story of activist violence is often used to justify police violence, but damage to property is not a justification for wholesale violence against children, passersby, journalists, protesters, or anyone at all. It is the police who should have lost their legitimacy, over and over, after the many individual killings from Eric Garner to Walter Scott to Breonna Taylor to George Floyd. And after reckless, entitled, out-of-control violence in police riots like that on Saturday night. Perhaps the point of their action this week is that they don’t need legitimacy, just power.
There’s one more kind of violence to talk about, and that’s structural violence. That’s the way that institutions and societies are organised to oppress a group of people, and for black Americans, that’s included slavery, the long terrorism of Jim Crow and lynching, voter suppression from the 19th century to the present, redlining (denying or charging more for necessary services) and subprime mortgages, discrimination in housing, education, and employment and far more.
Right now, several forms of structural violence that particularly matter are the chronic stress and lack of access to healthcare, housing issues, and work situations that have made black Americans die of Covid-19 at far higher rates than other races.
A public, searchable database of law enforcement officers in Portand, Oregon.
Search our public database for available information on officers in your city or to identify an officer with whom you have had a negative interaction.
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Ryan Haas, Sergio Olmos, Bradley W. Parks: Protesters fight using pepper spray, baseball bats in Portland on Saturday (OPB)
Protesters at Portland rallies to support police and show support for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign engaged in physical combat repeatedly with counterprotesters Saturday without police intervention. Members of the chaotic crowd used an array of weapons, including baseball bats and firearms to beat and threaten those they opposed.
Police said they did not declare a riot because they didn’t have the resources to handle one. After pro-Trump demonstrators left and counterprotesters returned to Terry Schrunk Plaza, federal officials declared an unlawful assembly.
Nicky Meuleman: A CSS-only, animated, wrapping underline.
Underlines are hard. Complications quickly arise if you want to do anything fancier than the good ol’ CSS text-decoration: underline. There are a lot of different techniques. Unfortunately, they nearly always come with significant drawbacks.
Aja Romano: Just how racist was H.P. Lovecraft? (Vox)
H.P. Lovecraft was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He was also one of its most racist.
Still, there’s an extent to which all of this discussion has been taking place within Lovecraft’s niche community of genre writers — still well below the mainstream radar, away from the broader influence of his work. (As late as 2014, it was possible to read Lovecraft explainers in media outlets that made no mention of his racism.) That might finally be changing with HBO’s Lovecraft Country now spotlighting the conversation around the author’s racist legacy — but it also inevitably yields frustration because Lovecraftian imagery and themes are so embedded within the pop culture landscape.
[Victor LaValle] also stressed capitalizing on Lovecraft’s love of fanfiction of his own stories to overwrite that legacy into newer, more progressive visions of horror. For instance, his award-winning Lovecraftian horror novel The Ballad of Black Tom largely revolves around the underlying premise that much of Lovecraft’s horror is predicated on ridiculous white privilege. That horrific realization that all Lovecraft’s characters undergo that the universe doesn’t revolve around them? That’s not a problem any Black character would ever have.
Tamara K. Nopper: Abolition is Not a Suburb (The New Inquiry)
If anything, what Ocasio-Cortez is actually describing is the way that affluence and whiteness provide these communities the means to avoid consistent targeting by the police, to ignore laws, or to evade punishment. To be able to be the target of less policing, as well as to hire attorneys and use money and networks when accused, is a thing that white affluence provides — an affluence tied up in and made possible by the racist-classist financial infrastructure concealed by the suggestion that affluent, white suburbanites just have different budgeting priorities. In cases where harm might be perpetrated, using one’s resources in terms of money and connections to avoid criminalization and incarceration can be more an evasion of accountability than abolition.
I would never confuse captivity with the privacy, money, and racial status shielding an affluent, white suburbanite. But a shared dimension is that each approach tries to make people, when they have committed harm, be disappeared from public view and consciousness while the structural roots of harm go unaddressed and society operates as normal. Again, abolition involves figuring out what nonpunitive accountability looks like in public. Affluent, white suburbanites being shielded from the violence of carceral systems while others are not offered the same opportunity is not a model of abolition. It is just an expression of relative power and racism.
The racist double standard Ocasio-Cortez speaks of is not simply an issue of different budget priorities or treatment. The disparity in punishment is relational. When it happens, the different treatment of white people — even when they are found guilty — involves rescuing them from forms of carceral control and violent punishment deemed racially appropriate for others.
This is not a call for parity in punishment. An abolitionist project would never consider this justice, since punishment itself is at the heart of carcerality, and equal punishment means Black people — who, as Jared Sexton notes, are the “prototypical targets of the panoply of police practices and the juridical infrastructure” — will never be free. But what we get from the affluent, white suburb is less a model of abolition and more an evasion of accountability, which can rely on racialized tropes of innocence to avoid punishment — which only enforces carcerality against those who serve as the raced specter of criminality.
While discussing abolition during the Rising Majority panel, Ocasio-Cortez proclaimed, “And to say, you know, we not actually wanting anything different, the world that we’re fighting for already exists, it just exists for some people, and we want it to exist for all of us.” The world that already exists, according to Ocasio-Cortez, is the affluent, white suburb. Yet these suburbs are part of a spatialized racial-class design in which capitalism and anti-Blackness structure public finance. Affluent, white suburbanites may seek protection for their children in ways that legitimate carcerality for others who serve as the specter of criminality and “deserving” harsh punishment, and often use their money, power, influence, and racial status to evade accountability for real harms they commit. Taken together, this cannot be what abolition looks like. While we are told the suburb gives us a model of the world we’re fighting for, looking to the affluent, white suburb for quick inspiration can only work if we ignore the logic and design of racial capitalism and carcerality we seek to undo. Ultimately, the suburban frame, even when employed with the best intentions, works against what is required of abolition. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore tells us, “Abolition requires that we change one thing: everything.”
Suzette Smith: Portland Police Stand By As Armed Alt-Right Protesters and Antifascists Brawl (Portland Mercury)
In years past, alt-right protest events involving out-of-towners generally saw a line of Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers standing between alt-right protesters and counter-protesters. But although the PPB used their LRAD loudspeaker system to make a handful of announcements to the groups—advising them that "everyone has the right to engage in the expression of first amendment rights" and that "officers [had] observed projectiles being thrown and people in possession of firearms"—they never intervened. In fact, there was no noticeable, physical police presence until around 2:15 pm when (as the groups pushed south on SW 3rd) federal officers filled the entryway of the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building. Those officers did not engage until the counter-protesters returned.
For most of the two and a half hour Hate, the No Marxism protesters chanted "U-S-A!," and the counter-protesters chanted "Stolen Land!" Participants on either side lobbed open juice containers, fireworks, rocks, and smoke bombs.
Both groups employed paint guns, and there were pellets whizzing past my ears from either side. Proud Boys member Alan Swinney stood behind a wall of alt-right protesters holding homemade shields and popped off paint rounds at the counter-protest crowd. A counter-protester grabbed my arm and tried to haul me from the area unsuccessfully. When I turned back to the alt-right line, I was about ten feet from Swinney casually pointing a handgun at me and the crowd around me.
As the counter-protesters returned to Terry Shrunk Plaza, the PPB broadcast from a patrol car that the gathering had been declared an unlawful assembly. This was the first announcement from PPB to actually declare an unlawful assembly, which seemed hypocritical—if not surprising—given the level of violence seen that afternoon, in comparison with protests where officers declared riots over thrown water bottles.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) federal police escorted some remaining right-wing attendees out of the crowd before they formed a line and pushed the counter-protesters onto SW Madison and into Chapman Square. They then fired pepper bullets into the crowd to cover their retreat into the Wyatt Building.
In a press release about the demonstrations, PPB explained their lack of engagement in the violent brawls this way:
"Incident commanders have to weigh out the entire situation to determine if police action is likely to make things safer or notIn this case there were hundreds of individuals and many weapons within the groups and an extremely limited amount of police resources actually available to address such a crowd. Additionally, PPB members have been the focus of over 80 days of violent actions directed at the police, which is a major consideration for determining if police resources are necessary to interject between two groups with individuals who appear to be willingly engaging in physical confrontations for short durations."
Yet, these restrictions didn't seem to limit PPB's ability to aggressively engage in anti-racist protests later Saturday night, using physical force to arrest and beat marching demonstrators. The only difference: There were no far-right protesters in attendance.
The Mercury reached out to Mayor Ted Wheeler's office for comment on PPB's relative inaction Saturday, but Wheeler—who also serves as the city police commissioner has yet to respond. The Mercury has also not received answers to questions posed to Portland's three sitting city commissioners about Saturday's police tactics.
Karina Brown: Black People Nearly Twice as Likely as Whites to Be Arrested at Portland Protests (Courthouse News)
State and local police in Portland have arrested over 550 protesters since mass protests began in Portland on May 29, sparked by outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Black people make up 11% of those arrested — almost double the rate of Portland’s Black population.
“It is highly unlikely that a disparity this high is a result of composition of the protestors or criminal activity,” Dr. Mark Leymon, professor of criminology at Portland State University, said in an interview. “Research shows that people of color are not more likely to commit crime, especially in this context.”
Black people are 4.4 times more likely to be arrested in Multnomah County than white people, according to a 2014 study, and 4.1 times more likely to have their charges prosecuted by the district attorney.
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission found in January that Portland police are twice as likely to search Black pedestrians and Black drivers during traffic stops than their white counterparts.
And arrest numbers are just the first step in a series of racially biased procedures that end up with Black people being six times more likely than white people to go to prison in Multnomah County.
“Everyone in the criminal justice system likes to point the finger at someone else for racial disparities,” Leymon said. “Cops say ‘We’re just arresting people who break the law.’ District attorneys say ‘We’re just prosecuting the cases you bring us.’ And judges say ‘We’re just sentencing the people you prosecute. But if you’re Black, every step through the criminal justice system increases your likelihood of going to prison.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the city’s police commissioner, refused multiple requests to comment on the racial disparity in arrests at protests calling for an end to that very problem.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell have increasingly joined Trump in claiming the nightly protests are the work of a small group of white people bent on violence and destruction — and that they are no longer part of a movement against systemic racism.
“Enough is enough,” Lovell told reporters Aug. 5. “This is not forwarding the goals” of a movement against racism.
“If this isn’t about racial injustice issues, why are so many people being arrested who are Black?” Leymon asked.
Apple Support: If your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch won't turn on or is frozen
My phone’s screen froze today and then called 911 while I was trying to restart it, so for next time that happens, here's how to do a hard reset:
iPhone 8 or later: Press and quickly release the Volume Up button. Press and quickly release the Volume Down button. Then press and hold the Side button until you see the Apple logo.
Zeynep Tufekci: Do Protests Even Work? (The Atlantic)
It sometimes takes decades to find out.
In the short term, protests can work to the degree that they can scare authorities into changing their behavior. Protests are signals: “We are unhappy, and we won’t put up with things the way they are.” But for that to work, the “We won’t put up with it” part has to be credible. Nowadays, large protests sometimes lack such credibility, especially because digital technologies have made them so much easier to organize.
Indeed, the past few decades in the United States have featured many large and widespread protests without corresponding immediate change. Large numbers of people marched around the country in early 2003 to oppose the impending invasion of Iraq, but the war and the occupation proceeded anyway in March of that year. The Occupy movement in the United States saw marches in 600 communities and 70 major cities quickly, and then went global, but inequality has gotten worse since then. Neither numbers nor streets are by themselves magic wands for change.
The current Black Lives Matter protest wave is definitely high risk through the double whammy of the pandemic and the police response. The police, the entity being protested, have unleashed so much brutality that in just three weeks, at least eight people have already lost eyesight to rubber bullets. One Twitter thread dedicated to documenting violent police misconduct is at 600 entries and counting.
In the long term, protests work because they can undermine the most important pillar of power: legitimacy. Commentators often note that a state can be defined by its monopoly on violence, a concept going back to the philosopher Thomas Hobbes and codified by the sociologist Max Weber. But the full Weber quote is less well known. Weber defined the state by its “monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force.” The word legitimate is as important as the words physical force, if not more. Especially in the modern world, that monopoly on violence isn’t something that self-perpetuates. Violence doesn’t just happen; it has to be enacted and enabled by people. The Soviet Union did not fall because it ran out of tanks to send to Eastern Europe when the people there rebelled in the late 1980s. It fell, in large part, because it ran out of legitimacy, and because Soviet rulers had lost the will and the desire to live in their own system. Compared with Western democracies, their system wasn’t delivering freedom or wealth, even to the winners. If the loss of legitimacy is widespread and deep enough, the generals and police who are supposed to be enacting the violence can and do turn against the rulers (or, at least, they stop defending the unpopular ruler). Force and repression can keep things under control for a while, but it also makes such rule more brittle.
Legitimacy, not repression, is the bedrock of resilient power. A society without legitimate governance will not function well; people can be coerced to comply, but it’s harder to coerce enthusiasm, competence, and creativity out of a discouraged, beaten-down people. Losing legitimacy is the most important threat to authorities, especially in democracies, because authorities can do only so much for so long to hold on to power under such conditions. Maybe they can stay in power longer in part through obstacles such as voter repression, gerrymandering, and increasing the power of unelected institutions, but the society they oversee will inevitably decline, and so will their grasp on power.
In that light, focusing on legitimacy as the most robust source of power, it becomes clear that the Black Lives Matter movement has been quite successful in its short life. It should first be noted: This is a young movement, but it did not start this year. The current wave of high-risk protests is a crest in a movement that goes back to the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida, and that spread nationwide after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the 2014 killing of Michael Brown. Understood in their proper historical context, Black Lives Matter protests are the second civil-rights movement in postwar America, and measured in that light, they are more and more successful in the most important metric: They are convincing people of the righteousness of their cause. In the long run, that’s of profound importance.
Protests also work because they change the protesters themselves, turning some from casual participants into lifelong activists, which in turn changes society. This is especially salient when a movement opposing police brutality and misconduct is met with more police brutality and misconduct. Peaceful protesters across the country have endured tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons, and this is no doubt part of the reason people are changing their minds. If the police will do this to protesters in broad daylight with cameras in so many hands, what else is happening to black or other vulnerable communities when nobody is around to film the interaction?
This gets to the final reason that protests work: Collective action is a life-changing experience. To be in a sea of people demanding positive social change is empowering and exhilarating. Protests work because they sustain movements over the long term as participants bond during collective action.
Do protests work? Yes, but not simply because some people march in the streets. Protests work because they direct attention toward an injustice and can change people’s minds, a slow but profoundly powerful process. Protests work because protesters can demonstrate the importance of a belief to society at large and let authorities understand that their actions will be opposed, especially if those protesters are willing to take serious risks for their cause. Protests work because they are often the gateway drug between casual participation and lifelong activism. And, sometimes, protests work because, for that moment, the question in the minds of the protesters is not whether they work short term or long term, but whether one can sit by idly for one more day while a grave injustice unfolds. And perhaps that’s the most powerful means by which protest works: when the cause is so powerful that the protesters don’t calculate whether it works or not, but feel morally compelled to show up and be counted.
Our co-editor Ryan Clarke has researched a list of articles, interviews and documentaries about techno and its history. We have compiled it into this library that will be updated as we find more relevant work.
Free PDFs of anti-racist posters, pamphlets, flyers, organizing material, and zines that provide information about the fight for racial equality and the movement to protect Black lives.
See the downloadable ones here: https://www.printedmatter.org/catalog/digital-downloads/free
In the coming days and weeks PBOT plans to place signs and barricades at 100 locations citywide. Before we embark on this exciting traffic calming and open streets experiment, I want to share a few thoughts about what we can do to make sure it’s a success.
People who are discriminated against and who don’t have built-in social or economic privileges and who are struggling under the weight of a system that has always been tilted against them should have their needs and concerns elevated first and foremost. Leaders need to be clear about what that means and how it will influence plans and actions.
PBOT needs to clarify who they’ve talked to in deciding how and where to make these changes.
Everyone at PBOT and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s office needs to erase “close” from their vocabulary for the next few weeks. There are myriad ways to talk about this effort without using that word and setting people off who are afraid something is being taken away from them. Portland isn’t closing anything, we are simply reducing access for drivers and creating more space for all other road users. The streets are open to drivers who live on them, US Mail trucks, first-responders, and so on.
Because the initial batch of these temporary diverters are only going on streets in the existing neighborhood greenway network, people that live in places without them are mad. Most notably, there are no greenways in southwest Portland or in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood in southeast. It’s also clear that with only 100 locations announced, there’s no way to cover all the places that need traffic calming.
PBOT needs to make it clear that they’re aware of these gaps and share a method for closing them. They should be transparent with the criteria they’re using to choose locations and let the public know how to influence them and suggest more locations.
It’s time to tap into that asset and recruit neighborhood residents to become greenway superheroes who are trained and accountable for making sure barricades are where they should be.
The barricades and signs won’t work if they’re too far off to the side. It will be tempting for PBOT to place them in the shoulder and shadow of parked cars or too close to corners. That would be a big mistake. If people ignore these diverters, it will endanger street users and it will open PBOT up to criticism that the program isn’t working.
Let’s learn from Bend. They initially placed signage too far off the side. Advocates spoke up and got them to re-orient them into the middle of the roadway. Essential drivers and other road users can still go around them, but they have to slow down and take account.
As much as the coronavirus scares me, the long-term implications for transportation frighten me more.
A survey by Transit App, shows that in the US the flight from public transit has been disproportionately white, male, and affluent. Of those left riding transit 92% are essential workers, 70% make less than $50,000 per year, and 85% do not have a car at home and do not have access to one.
While transit agencies make painful cuts and struggle with infection control, automakers are likely hard at work developing ad campaigns that cling onto some peoples’ feeling that cars are the safest way to travel. According to a recent survey by Cars.com, 20% of people searching for a car said they don’t own one and had been using public transit or ride hailing.
To combat the marketing onslaught, people will need good and safe options. TriMet will need to invest heavily and publicly in infection control like accelerating installation of protective barriers for drivers, reprogramming rear doors to open for boarding, and eliminating fare inspections. New strategies like temperature checks or voluntary location tracing apps to aid contact tracers might become necessary to prevent a new surge of cases as some industries head back to work this summer.
The amount of research and testing that had to go into this demonstrates how fractured and broken web performance is right now.
But, since it is, there's a useful snippet at the end of this article.
Google Fonts is fast. Now it’s faster. Much faster.
Thread by @BretDevereaux about shield walls at protests (Twitter)
In that context, the fact that this shield wall, unlike historical shield walls, *cannot advance* makes its defensive nature instantly understandable to most observers. It reinforces the contrast between the aggressive, violence-initiating police and the defensive violence-receiving protesters, while at the same time allowing the protest to engage in what is essentially 'force protection' - keeping its people on the streets, out of jail, and out of a hospital, where they can continue to pursue the protest's agenda.
Angela Davis: Dems & GOP Tied to Corporate Capitalism, But We Must Vote So Trump Is “Forever Ousted” (Democracy Now)
AMY GOODMAN: We only have two minutes, and I want to get to the election. When I interviewed you in 2016, you said you wouldn’t support either main-party candidate at the time. What are your thoughts today for 2020?
ANGELA DAVIS: Well, my position really hasn’t changed. I’m not going to actually support either of the major candidates. But I do think we have to participate in the election. I mean, that isn’t to say that I won’t vote for the Democratic candidate. What I’m saying is that in our electoral system as it exists, neither party represents the future that we need in this country. Both parties remain connected to corporate capitalism. But the election will not so much be about who gets to lead the country to a better future, but rather how we can support ourselves and our own ability to continue to organize and place pressure on those in power. And I don’t think there’s a question about which candidate would allow that process to unfold.
So I think that we’re going to have to translate some of the passion that has characterized these demonstrations into work within the electoral arena, recognizing that the electoral arena is not the best place for the expression of radical politics. But if we want to continue this work, we certainly need a person in office who will be more amenable to our mass pressure. And to me, that is the only thing that someone like a Joe Biden represents. But we have to persuade people to go out and vote to guarantee that the current occupant of the White House is forever ousted.
This series is dedicated to the many black people that were robbed of their lives at the hands of the police. In addition to using markers and pencil, I use time as a medium to define how long each portrait is colored in. 1 year of life = 1 minute of color. Tamir Rice was 12 when he was murdered, so I colored his portrait for 12 minutes. As a person of color, I know that my future can be stolen from me if I’m driving with a broken taillight, or playing my music too loud, or reaching for my phone at the wrong time. So for each of these portraits I played with the harsh relationship between time and death. I want the viewer to see how much empty space is left in these lives, stories that will never be told, space that can never be filled. This emptiness represents holes in their families and our community, who will be forever stuck with the question, “who were they becoming?” This series touches on grief and the unknown.
Mariame Kaba: Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police (NYT)
Because reform won’t happen.
Congressional Democrats want to make it easier to identify and prosecute police misconduct; Joe Biden wants to give police departments $300 million. But efforts to solve police violence through liberal reforms like these have failed for nearly a century.
Enough. We can’t reform the police. The only way to diminish police violence is to reduce contact between the public and the police.
There is not a single era in United States history in which the police were not a force of violence against black people. Policing in the South emerged from the slave patrols in the 1700 and 1800s that caught and returned runaway slaves. In the North, the first municipal police departments in the mid-1800s helped quash labor strikes and riots against the rich. Everywhere, they have suppressed marginalized populations to protect the status quo.
Why on earth would we think the same reforms would work now? We need to change our demands. The surest way of reducing police violence is to reduce the power of the police, by cutting budgets and the number of officers.
We can build other ways of responding to harms in our society. Trained “community care workers” could do mental-health checks if someone needs help. Towns could use restorative-justice models instead of throwing people in prison.
When people, especially white people, consider a world without the police, they envision a society as violent as our current one, merely without law enforcement — and they shudder. As a society, we have been so indoctrinated with the idea that we solve problems by policing and caging people that many cannot imagine anything other than prisons and the police as solutions to violence and harm.
People like me who want to abolish prisons and police, however, have a vision of a different society, built on cooperation instead of individualism, on mutual aid instead of self-preservation. What would the country look like if it had billions of extra dollars to spend on housing, food and education for all? This change in society wouldn’t happen immediately, but the protests show that many people are ready to embrace a different vision of safety and justice.
Steven W. Thrasher: An Uprising Comes From the Viral Underclass (Slate)
And the Black Lives Matter movement could be the vaccine the country needs.
But both Floyd and Taylor are part of the viral underclass—a population harmed not simply by microscopic organisms but by the societal structures that make viral transmission possible. Viruses directly affect the lives of people who become infected. But the bodies of the viral underclass are made needlessly vulnerable, and that vulnerability shapes their lives and their communities, even if individual people ultimately don’t become infected or killed.
When we follow a virus—HIV, SARS-CoV-2, hepatitis B or C—we find all the fault lines of the society it is infecting.
Where you’d find policing, you’d find poverty, and Black people, and new cases of HIV, and untreated cases of HIV—which, untreated, proceeded to AIDS, and to AIDS deaths.
As Black people have organized against the connected crises of the virus and policing, they’re giving the viral underclass a map toward liberation. Facing the contagion of financial ruin and with time at home, many white people have realized (perhaps for the first time) that they have far more in common with other members of the viral underclass than they do with the ruling class.
We are roughly 5 percent of Earth’s population but account for 25 percent of the world’s prisoners and COVID-19 deaths. That the wealthiest nation on Earth has the most coronavirus deaths is because we put resources into policing, militarism, and punishment that we haven’t (yet) put into public health.
U.S. citizens have a hard time understanding that—while there’s a viral underclass within the country, the country might be the underclass of the world. We are a “failed social experiment,” as Cornel West put it. Other countries may treat the U.S. as pariahs for years because our society allowed for uncontrolled community spread, staggering unemployment, and horrific levels of death. The nation’s massive wealth was not used to provide prophylaxis from this virus for the many; it just concentrated upward.
Understanding and embracing this can lead us away from selfish politics and toward a new politics of communal care and understanding—to create the kind of multiracial, multinational uprising we have been seeing in the past few weeks.
In the past, when I’ve thought about what a world without AIDS would look like, I’ve thought about the words of the 1977 Combahee River Collective statement, which coined the concept of identity politics.* In writing about working in coalition, they wrote, “We might use our position at the bottom, however, to make a clear leap into revolutionary action.” This could benefit everyone, because, “[i]f Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” A world without AIDS would mean everyone had gotten the food, medicine, and shelter they needed and would, thus, be free.