How It Happened

How the Pandemic Defeated America (Ed Yong)

 A sluggish response by a government denuded of expertise allowed the coronavirus to gain a foothold. Chronic underfunding of public health neutered the nation’s ability to prevent the pathogen’s spread. A bloated, inefficient health-care system left hospitals ill-prepared for the ensuing wave of sickness. Racist policies that have endured since the days of colonization and slavery left Indigenous and Black Americans especially vulnerable to COVID‑19. The decades-long process of shredding the nation’s social safety net forced millions of essential workers in low-paying jobs to risk their life for their livelihood. The same social-media platforms that sowed partisanship and misinformation during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa and the 2016 U.S. election became vectors for conspiracy theories during the 2020 pandemic.

Different Strategies

Black Women Need to Unlearn the Pattern of Martyrdom (Christina M. Tapper and adrienne maree brown)

But how do we start to make a movement culture in which the workload is truly shared? To me, one of the deepest wounds of colonization and chattel slavery is this sense that there’s constant work that we need to be doing to earn our right to exist in any way. So that feels like one piece.

The second piece is we have to unlearn the idea that we have to earn pleasure. That we have to earn the right to rest. That we have to earn the right to be desired, to be loved, to be seen. That someone else has to give us permission to feel good.

Starting School

What If We Radically Reimagined The New School Year? (Ashley McCall)

What if we put our money, time and energy into what we say matters most? What if this school year celebrated imagination? In We Got This, Cornelius Minor reminds us that “education should function to change outcomes for whole communities.” What if we designed a school year that sought to radically shift how communities imagine, problem solve, heal, and connect?

What if this messy school year prioritized hard truths and accountability?

What if we listened? What if we made space to acknowledge the anger and demands of students? What if our priority was healing? Individual and collective.

What if we recognized that life—our day-to-day circumstances and our response to them—is curricula? It’s the curricula students need, especially now as our country reckons with its identity.

Working Hours

The Pandemic Isn’t Forcing Moms Out of the Workforce — Dads Are (Jessica Valenti)

The truth, though, is that most of this is preventable. The danger to women’s workplace progress isn’t unstoppable; men simply need to make the same kind of sacrifices that women have been making since the pandemic started. (And for years before that.)

Saving women’s careers isn’t just about ensuring that individual men step up. The way we talk about the childcare crisis solely as a women’s issue is self-fulfilling — and it’s irresponsible.

This Isn’t New

The Feds Have a Long History of Snatching People Up (Morgan Godvin, Leo Beletsky)

The federal criminal justice system is terrifying. The potential sentences are incomprehensibly long, often many times longer than the state would give, if the state would convict at all. When Black and brown people were getting plucked out of their cities by federal police and sent to federal prisons and detention facilities across the country, the nation did not cry foul. 

But the people getting arrested in Portland haven’t committed any crimes, you say? They are being arrested for little more than exercising their first amendment right! It’s almost as if people are getting arrested not based on their conduct or any notion of public safety, but rather what is politically popular at the moment. It’s almost as if this is the way it has always been … but today’s political pawns are mostly white, often educated, and politically active.

Say Her Name

The Reckoning Will Be Incomplete Without Black Women and Girls (Tamara Winfrey-Harris)

Even though there is now a nationwide outcry against systemic racism and its by-products—the over-policing, incarceration, brutalization, and murder of black people—the discussion and activism almost always center men and boys. By minimizing the trials of black women and girls, the country will miss the full picture of devastation that the American police state imposes on African Americans.

Built-In Oppression

America’s Cities Were Designed to Oppress (Bryan Lee Jr.)

For nearly every injustice in the world, there is an architecture that has been planned and designed to perpetuate it.

Rebellion is a response to a prolonged dehumanization of a people unwilling to be participants in their own demise; it is often the soft power of the built environment that provides the preconditions for that dehumanization and the atrocities that follow.

Is Prison Necessary?

Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind (Rachel Kushner)

Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”

For Gilmore, to “never forget” means you don’t solve a problem with state violence or with personal violence. Instead, you change the conditions under which violence prevailed. Among liberals, a kind of quasi-Christian idea about empathy circulates, the idea that we have to find a way to care about the people who’ve done bad. To Gilmore this is unconvincing. When she encountered the kids in Fresno who hassled her about prison abolition, she did not ask them to empathize with the people who might hurt them, or had. She instead asked them why, as individuals, and as a society, we believe that the way to solve a problem is by “killing it.” She was asking if punishment is logical, and if it works. She let the kids find their own way to answer.

Abolish the Police

Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police (Mariame Kaba)

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.

We Can’t Ride it Out

Eugenics Isn’t Going to Get Us Out of This Mess (Sarah Jones)

They’re asking [willing death] of your grandparents, and of your neighbor with cancer; they ask it of me and of you, too, if your body is flawed or simply unlucky. The views…are eugenics. They separate human life into categories. In one box, there are people worth saving. In the other, there are people we ought to let die. Believing this makes them eugenicists. What they contemplate is not quite mass murder, but a sort of planned, negligent homicide….Let nature take its course. The fit will survive the cull.

[The] obsession with market forces was not about human flourishing, productivity, and abundance, but about something else. Supply-side economics gave them a way to intellectualize their own amorality. Markets care nothing for ethics. They aren’t governed by justice and they don’t feel mercy.

What today’s eugenicists are unwilling to admit is that there is one, less deadly way to rescue the economy from this pandemic. It’s redistribution, not just of resources but of power. The government will have to massively expand its tiny welfare state, and grant workers rights they do not currently have. It has the financial capacity to do so, but the project would force it to reconsider its priorities.