The knee-to-the-neck killing of another black man has touched a nerve around the world. It’s not just about George Floyd; people seem to have awakened to a dark reality of racism and injustice that has long permeated our culture. There have been countless killings of African Americans by police, so why is this one different? Perhaps the coronavirus pandemic has ripped open the curtain that kept us from seeing clearly. Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.
- Before the Pandemic, we never divided people into “essential” and “non-essential” workers. We never considered that the most “essential workers” –healthcare workers, bus drivers, cooks, table waiters and waitresses, truck drivers, police, and firemen—were the most vulnerable.
- During the quarantine, we noticed a disparity between those who can safely work from home compared to those who must go to their jobs.
- Before the Pandemic, we did not realize that brown-skinned people and the elderly would die at a much higher rate than most.
- We noticed violence by police against African American males, but we observed that abuse from the safety of our couch while watching the TV news.
- We may have heard that African Americans and Latinos have less access to healthcare, but as long as we have our Obamacare or Medicare, other people’s lack of access to healthcare is their problem, not ours.
- We may have heard about the economic disparities between the rich and poor, but the stock market looked good, and the unemployment figures were encouraging.
The Pandemic seems to have ripped open the curtain shedding light on a plethora of injustices: economic disparities, employment opportunities, healthcare access, treatment of immigrant workers, and victimization of violence, all merging with the persistent underlying virus of racism.
Our collective consciousness is ripped open by images of workers who were ordered back to work in their meat-packing plants while hundreds of co-workers came down with COVID-19. Are these workers “essential” or “expendable?”
In the wake of a litany of killings by police, national and international protests mobilize to express collective moral anger. We are shocked to see military troops called up to suppress peaceful demonstrations. Our eyes cannot believe troops were bashing or arresting journalists.
Thank God that righteous indignation and moral outrage are not entirely dead!
Our moral temperature rises when we see our government deport immigrants who have Coronavirus back to countries like Haiti that have dismal resources to slow the spread of the epidemic. By the time we realize that our government has blocked shipments of masks and Personal Protection Gear to Caribbean nations who had ordered and paid for those supplies, our capacity for moral outrage has been numbed.
Is it too caustic to suggest that the Pandemic is our friend? Is it too cynical to thank the Pandemic for throwing open the curtain and revealing injustices long ignored? Is it too late?