It is not by accident that the United States president has ignored and fundamentally moved beyond the public health emergency that is COVID-19. This president and the administration he has assembled, have designed and implemented a racist, white supremacist agenda since before he was inaugurated in January of 2017. My mother used to always tell us to, “Be careful of the company you keep.” The company that surrounds the POTUS and his closest and most trusted advisors are either white supremacists themselves, or they fundamentally align themselves with the doctrine and dogma of white supremacy and a distorted version of manifest destiny.
They came into office with a specific and clear set of directives; to dominate the office and the people, and to deliberately engage in the systematic removal of the legacy and accomplishments of the previous administration. The fact that for 8 years a Black family with high moral values, standards of decency, propriety, integrity, and a genuine care and compassion for the American people inhabited the White House, the people’s house, was something that the new president and his entourage simply could not tolerate. The 45th president has a deep and all-consuming hatred for our 44th President Barrack Hussein Obama.
Immediately upon taking office this administrative team began to remove and replace people, programs, policies, and procedures that were implemented in the Obama administration, all in an effort to negate and deny the historic successes of the former administration, the Black president. Further, as a type of throwing down the gauntlet, they wanted to make it clear that there was a new Sheriff in town! Number-45, defined himself politically when he relentlessly pursued the myth that Barrack Obama was an illegitimate president because he was, according to the “birthers,” not born in the Unities States but rather was born in Kenya. He was a Black man from the “Dark Continent!” This began as a dog whistle to those so-called ALT right-wingers to come out into the open because now there was somebody in the White House who would be their champion. The Obama Presidency was an abomination to these people and they were going to make certain that history would record it as so, or they were going to make sure that they so scrubbed Obama’s legacy from the American consciousness that the revision of his historic rise and presidency would merely be seen as an insignificant blip on the radar screen of American presidents. An unfortunate mishap for which they blamed liberals and the “Democrat” party.
After his extraordinarily racist and hate-filled inaugural address, fast forward through 3.5 years of promoting white males (known sexual assaulter and misogynists) to positions of power and influence and racist policies and practices such as the Muslim travel ban, the border wall, (for which Mexico will never pay a dime), blocked Immigration saying in effect that it threatened White culture, criminalizing BIPOC in rhetoric and policy proposals, Charlottesville declaration of “good people on both sides,” termination of temporary protective status for POC while liberally allowing immigration from white countries for white people, the targeting the NFL protest as un-American, tightening the rules for people seeking asylum, separating thousands of children from their parents and detaining them in cages like animals, calling Black Lives Matter protesters hoodlums and gang bangers, STILL calling for the death penalty for the exonerated “Central Park 5,” calling in the National Guard to fire on peaceful protesters exercising their 1st Amendment rights and so on, and so on…. The list is so long these brief paragraphs cannot contain it! The man is a racist, a white supremacist, and he is the President of the United States.
This is certainly not the first racist president, far from it. Many of our former presidents and leaders have been members of that club. However, within the modern era, we have not seen anything that compares to this man, who is the 45th president of the United States. The inept response that this president and his administration have generated towards the COVID -19 pandemic is not only intentional, but it is also devious and demonic in nature, and rivals ideologies of ethnic cleansing as a type of neo-genocide inflicted upon black and brown bodies in full view with no relief in sight. Although the virus is indiscriminate and infects all people of all races and ethnicities, including the white supremacists that Number-45 counts as his army of warriors to “Take our country back!” And of course, the MAGA hatted, no mask-wearing zealots that have no idea that they too are vulnerable to the coronavirus’ wrath. They will see before it’s over! But, because their “fearless” (and I use that term very loosely) leader parades around as though he is invincible refusing to wear a mask, (because wearing a mask projects weakness, not strength,) he continues to proclaim, and they continue to emulate him. He is messaging to them that they are the Master Race, the ones who are strong enough to WILL this pandemic into utter submission.
White grievance politics and the inevitability of the changing demographics in America has made the double pandemic of COVID-19 and Racism inextricably bound together in 2020. So, the question remains: Where do we go from here? The public lynching of George Floyd—on top of the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, and the terrorist attack and murder of Breonna Taylor in her home, are culminating events in concert with the public health emergency we are experiencing. Indeed, it has brought America to a standstill, an inflection point, and a time of self-reflection. But will it bring America to her knees, as the United States is publicly shamed on a global scale? Will America take this moment to recognize, and I have to say that the onus of this “recognition” is primarily on White people, that America is a sick nation, in serious peril of losing the pseudo civil war for equality, freedom, and justice for ALL people while her identity as the world’s greatest experiment continues to erode.
Can we survive intact? Will there be a breaking of what has been in order to build the nation that we want to become? Will WE the People have the courage, the will, and the fortitude to exercise our right to overthrow our government? The legitimacy of a democracy comes only from the will and consent of the governed. The right of revolution and/or rebellion is our duty. “ It is the duty of the People to overthrow a government that acts against their common interests and/or threatens the safety and security of the people without cause.”
The COVID Pandemic is inextricably bound to America’s historic legacy of racism and systemic and institutional oppression. #BlackLivesMatter #DefundthePolice
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.
Artistic Director and Founder of The Conciliation Project