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I Mind Dying

After about two months of deadly delays and denials, followed by an insulting (bipartisan) stimulus package, Donald Trump decided that it was time to get back to the business of profit. The Times has claimed, “If the coronavirus lockdown leads to a fall in GDP of more than 6.4% more years of life will be lost due to recession than will be gained through beating the virus.”

There is a narrative being pushed where folks are more worried that emphasis on social distancing, to counter the pandemic and save lives, coupled with state measures to ensure that, has significantly hurt the economy than there are for the people who are losing and will lose their lives—- whether through the virus or what is resulting from it. 

After sending off a morbid tweet, Trump argued at the White House that the nation may just have to accept drastic public-health consequences if we are to have any hope of saving the collapsing economy. Trump, however, was not alone in this belief.  Countless right-wing Trump followers, from politician to pundit, rushed to express the same but taking it just a bit further. 

Texas’ Republican lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, suggested that he and other grandparents would and should be willing to risk their health and even their lives in order for the country to “get back to work” amid the coronavirus pandemic. Patrick emphasized this with a gross plea to not “sacrifice the country.”  Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk appeared on Fox News and offered an idea to reopen states with lower infection rates while leaving more heavily infected areas in quarantine placing specific emphasis on “saving the country”. Glenn Beck offered his thoughts towards the death brigade stating, “I’d rather die than kill the country. ’Cause it’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country.”

It should come as a surprise to no one, least of all colonized people in the US, that rich white men with power are now saying aloud what they’ve always done through laws and systemic oppression. Black people in the US have been dying of a designed genocide since the first slave ship docked. Ever-worsening socioeconomic conditions in colonized communities have resulted in wasting away the will to live. 

The poor, the disabled, the stigmatized have always been the sacrificial lambs for the imperial state. From poverty drafts to the unfair and inhumane treatment endured under the US medical system, Black people have long withstood the genocide of our communities where we have been starved, shot, gassed, poisoned, bombed, sterilized, and, in some instances, eliminated. It happened before, and as countless COVID-19 articles are highlighting, it’s happening now with disparities in access to ensuring safety. 

Rich white men with power are not talking about sacrificing themselves. Despite what they are saying to anyone that would listen, rich white men with power are trying to convince others to get comfortable with the idea of genocide. They have always been in favor of genocide through the support of a police state, the Prison Industrial Complex, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the response to Hurricane Maria, pipelines through Indigenous lands, poisoned Flint water, lead in majority Black communities, etc. 

As we watch majority colonized people become “essential workers”, risking their lives and the lives of their families and communities for “the good of the county”, we must be acutely aware that it is the underlying conditions trapping colonized people within an unforgiving capitalist system. They have already been forced to sacrifice— sacrifices that rich white men with power will only put lip service to. 

These majority Black essential workers (that are being called heroes) have limited access to testing, no basic protections such as masks and gloves, and no economic relief. What do these heroes and their communities get? Curfews and the presence of the national guard ensuring eventual deaths through a police state. Social distancing void of social safety nets is just social control and without any introspection of that dynamic things WILL become deadly. 

It should surprise no one, least of all colonized communities, to hear rich white men with power speak of “profit over people” motivated by a twisted expression of patriotism. This is what the US was founded on. Yes, we have survived but we can never forget that we are the perpetual sacrifice. The whole concept of death is terrible, indeed. How are we going to act?

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Erica Caines is a poet, writer and organizer in Baltimore and the DMV. She is an organizing committee member of the anti war coalition, the Black Alliance For Peace as well as an outreach member of the Black centered Ujima People’s Progress Party. Caines founded Liberation Through Reading in 2017 as a way to provide Black children with books that represent them and created the extension, a book club entitled Liberation Through Reading BC, to strengthen political education online and in our communities.

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