(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 85)
In less than three months, cities and households across America have gone from discussing precautions for COVID-19 to discussing the racial inequality that still limits access to resources for millions of non-whites in the U.S. But the two have never been anything but linked: throughout this writing series, a number of stories and statistics have shone light on the barriers afforded to people by wealth, skin color, and their associated access to resources, as well as even to “an alternative truth” to America’s racial inequality and its staying power. Yet even these issues betray “older” roots.
In November 2016, the United States faced a choice between not one, but two denialist candidates, both of whom refused to confront racial politics in America as a matter of the nation’s core, or the bedrock on which its economy was built– including genocide, chattel slavery, dishonored treaties with Native American tribes, and more–and on which it’s still sustained.
One doesn’t need to recall Trump’s denials, since he will likely be remembered as the most ahistorical candidate and president of all time. But one also needs to look at the alternative to Trump at the time.
In 2016, when Hillary Clinton and her husband were each confronted by Black Lives Matter activists, both denied calls for acknowledging their roles in jailing countless Black and Latino men, including youth, by means of President-Clinton’s Crime Bill in 1994, which paved the way for 14 years of increased incarceration for Black and Latino bodies, including with an increase of death penalty sentences.
In a meeting with Black Lives Matter leadership at the time, when Hillary Clinton was asked to admit her and her husband’s parts in this racist jail system, she told Black Lives Matter activists to ‘change policy, not hearts.‘
Four years later, it’s clear that “changing policies” did not prevent the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, or the countless other names that haven’t made their way to the mainstream conscience from another show of white supremacy rearing its deadly head in America. Reform policy has also largely not prevented the incarceration of Black men and women at nearly six times the rate of whites in the United States.
Is it still the job of communities of color, then, to change racist policies which betray racist hearts?
Now, it’s time to continue holding not just Biden accountable for his benefit at the expense of Black and more working-class communities, but also elected officials like Eric Garcetti, Michel Moore, and countless others. As Black Lives Matter and the growing calls to reduce the LAPD’s budget in Los Angeles demonstrate, the battle is long, but our communities have battled our whole lives for truth and reconciliation. In days forward, as the American economy teeters on the brink of another decade of depression and insolvency for another generation of too many families, it’s not just depression that is at stake; it’s the survival of our very society. The world is watching, Los Angeles. And the world is with us.
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