Tuesday, May 26, 2020
May 26, 2020

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Commentary: We also face a pandemic of racism

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The onslaught of a global health pandemic COVID-19 has brought out the best in many of us and the worst in others. It has also exposed the ugly truths of racism, white privilege and white supremacy.

As our nation’s leader continues to espouse divisive rhetoric that emboldens people to act out in aggressive ways, some Americans have sunk to a new low. Xenophobia against Asian Americans is on the rise. Health care disparities among African Americans have worsened during the pandemic due to systemic racism. Black and brown people are being disproportionately arrested for not properly following social distancing guidelines.

On May 1, when hundreds of white protesters, many of them armed with assault rifles, descended on Michigan’s state capitol to oppose stay-at-home rules, President Donald Trump referred to them as “very good people” — reminiscent of his comments when violent white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

Yet when unarmed Black Lives Matter protesters marched in response to police brutality, we were called thugs. We were told black people would not be killed if they would just comply with police orders. We were told that the victims were suspects in crimes, and this justified their murders, without being afforded a constitutional right to a fair trial. We were told that armed officers feared for their lives while pursuing their unarmed victims.

Police have been caught on camera in gut-wrenching videos punching unarmed women and children in the face. In early May, Indianapolis police were recorded killing a young black man named Sean Reed (who appeared to be unarmed), and then laughing about it. In February, a father and son duo in Georgia were captured on video murdering Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed man who was simply out for a jog. A transgender woman was killed in Missouri on May 3 in what the Human Rights Campaign has called “a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny.”

My heart is heavy from watching my people be murdered in cold blood. I cannot bring myself to watch some of the videos. Sometimes I cannot even bring myself to cry, because it happens so often that I am starting to become numb to the pain.

The list of unarmed black men, women and children senselessly killed for no other reason than pure hatred for the color of their skin goes on and on: Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Nina Pop, Botham Jean, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, the Charleston Nine and countless others.

I have marched, I have cried, I have protested. I have been angry, raised my voice, held a candlelight vigil, organized a community forum, hosted radio talk shows and written articles, essays and papers.

And I am tired. Tired of the criminalization of brown skin. Tired of dirty looks because we wear our hair a certain way. Tired of being followed around in stores. Tired of people claiming that being against police brutality means being anti-police. Tired of people pretending that personal and systemic racism does not exist. Tired of white “victimhood.”

I am tired, too, of the black community being economically and politically disenfranchised. Tired of people being complacent and complicit with racism. Tired of this country claiming “liberty and justice for all” in words rather than in actions. Tired of hearing the word n—–. And I am tired of black lives not mattering.

The modern-day lynching of African Americans will not be endured without a fight. So long as injustice exists, the fight for justice will ensue. We will not give up until the systematic destruction of black lives is eradicated.

Linda Wiggins-Chavis is a writer, activist, theologian and biochemist currently teaching middle school science. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

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