(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 limits access to resources and safety all around the fences separating our communities. 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 the subsequent access to resources and even “an alternative truth” to America’s racial inequality and just who actually benefits from its staying power. But these issues themselves betray “older” roots.
In November 2016, the United States faced a choice between 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 and on which it’s been sustained since the days of genocide, chattel slavery, dishonored treaties with Native American tribes, and more.
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, sold to voters as Hillary Clinton.
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 into the mainstream conscience from another show of white supremacy rearing its deadly head in America. Just as it’s clear that reform policy has largely not prevented the incarceration of Black men and women at nearly six times the rate of whites in the United States.
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 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. In days forward, as the American economy teeters on the brink of another decade of depression and insolvency for one too many families, it is not just depression that is at stake; it’s the matter of the survival of our very society. The world is watching, Los Angeles. The world is with us.
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