Ride or Die? The impact of November 2020 on people of color.
“Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t” — Jay Z
Numbers (or statistics) tell us the truth. For decades, minorities and young people under 25 years of age in the US are politically inactive and don’t exercise this activity at the ballot box. However, if there was ever a time to get up, register and vote now is the time. The 2020 presidential election is arguably the most important election thus far of the 21st Century and a flashpoint for the future of America for a myriad of reasons.
In terms of legacy, the next President will likely appoint one, potentially, two Justices to the US Supreme Court. This will impact the ideological lens through which the highest court of the judicial branch will interpret laws for the next fifty years. Affirmative action, gun ownership, reproductive rights, and same-sex marriage are just a few hot topics that will be scrutinized and reviewed by the Supreme Court within the coming years. Down the ladder, the new President will appoint judges to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals who determine the fate of every civil action in the United States; holding more power than the Supreme Court in many instances. While the media, depending on who you are watching, paints this as an “us versus them narrative”, basic human rights in the wealthiest country in the world are slowly deteriorating. This is not a Liberal versus Conservative, Republican versus Democrat. This is basic human decency and our citizen’s having the rights to adequate and affordable healthcare, education, clean water, and air. To paraphrase the civil rights martyrs of the 20th century, “It’s simply to be treated like a human being.”
What’s really at stake?
Beyond the very foundation of democracy, everything we value and cherish as persons of color is at stake in this election. 2020 has exposed the cracks and weaknesses of this country’s social programs, yet the very individuals benefiting from the status quo have convinced the very people who are vulnerable that this is normal and inevitable.
This discussion of employers paying a livable wage to their employees baffles me. Many people still do not believe the minimum wage should be raised to at least $15.00 an hour to keep up with inflation and productivity. Minimum wage pay hasn’t changed in over 10 years yet the cost of living, goods, and services have almost quadrupled. The last time a 40 hour workweek paid a livable wage was when Bill Clinton was President. There is something fundamentally wrong with the fact a 40-hour minimum wage cannot pay for rent in every area of the United States. A person has to work over 122 hours a week to pay rent, utilities and still have enough for food. The issue is there is only 168 hours in a week, not including time to take care of family, one’s health, or simply enjoy life.
Speaking of health, hospital bills, and lack of health insurance have financially crippled many citizens. The United States has the most expensive healthcare in the world. Yet many refuse to empathize with the magnitude of how financially crippling it is for a person with no health coverage that suffers from a chronic disease. It’s gotten so bad health care providers are sneaking samples of insulin because patients are rationing their supply at dangerous levels. People are dying of preventable and treatable illnesses and injuries because they simply cannot afford the treatments. At the same time, pharmaceutical companies are making billions of dollars on having American citizens as indentured servants of the healthcare system.
In a congressional hearing, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called out the CEO of Gilead the pharmaceutical company for charging the United States 10 times the amount for HIV medication compared to pennies on the dollar to other countries. What makes it worse was the government paid for the research and has an active patent on the medication, not the company. Yet the government is not enforcing the patent law violation on Gilead. This is just a series of examples where big corporations are making billions at the expense of our democracy and the lives of its citizens through necro capitalism. Countless laws were broken by Big Pharma companies the government will not enforce. Who suffers the most from this? Low-Income citizens. Who is disproportionately represented in lower-income brackets? People of color.
Black people will be more at risk than ever.
It seems there is money to be made from the miseducation, economic disenfranchisement, incarceration, and death of Black People in America. An entire social justice movement, our Arab Spring, was birthed from black people encountering the police or vigilante citizens. Those interactions result in the death of said black person. Death is captured on video. Video is shared on social media. Video goes viral. The video makes mainstream news. Back and forth debate on police brutality. Protests and disruption begin. More media coverage. Celebrities tweet about said incident hashtag trend begins. New coverage for several weeks. The victim’s name is added to the growing list. Wash rinse, repeat.
It’s not just law enforcement. Racial bias is as American as apple pie. It permeates our sports, entertainment, places of worship, and workplaces It’s the discrimination against ethnic hair that allows white employers to fire black employees disguised as dress code standards. It’s the growing number of Black women and babies dying 40 times more than White women giving birth. It’s denying Black people adequate medical attention. Black people being cheated out of equal pay, representation at the senior leadership levels, and denied access to economic resources.
Children as young as 8 years old are in tears because they realize the color of their skin is justification to be killed without consequences. The fact Black people are being openly lynched and protestors having to rely on the video of their deaths for society to apply pressure on local government to act. The fact a law enforcement officer can openly murder a black person on camera with a nonchalant attitude because he knows the most that can happen is an acquittal and termination of employment is a travesty. It becomes worse when said law enforcement officers can easily apply for another law enforcement job one county or town over or receive millions in crowdsourced funds from Americans that are complicit in the oppression of black people.
Since March (193,000) people have lost their lives to COVID-19. Yet as a collective no one has raised the question, “did our loved ones die in vain? “ This pandemic was preventable, yet the systems and teams in place to contain the virus were dismantled. This pandemic could and should have been prevented. Livelihoods and lives have been lost due to an incompetent administration. According to medical experts and general science, this disease and the number of people dying isn’t going to taper off. While other countries are seeing a significant decrease in infections, the United States is continuing to increase. Politicians care more about the economy and lining their personal pockets than the lives of the people they were elected to serve. The very administration spent months down playing the pandemic, ignoring the warnings of other countries who suffered major casualties. Yet the Leader of the so-called free word uses racist names like the China Virus when addressing the Media.
Black Lives don’t matter until you make it matter
How much more can local and state governments show Black people’s lives don’t matter? They are not telling you they are showing you. Breonna Taylor was killed six months ago and her killers are still roaming free. The District attorney is trying to gaslight a confession from Breonna’s former boyfriend naming her as a co-conspirator in some trumped up drug raid that went bad. The presidential election isn’t the only election we have to pay attention to. The midterm election where the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate is up for reelection as well. This is the branch that writes and reverses the laws that has us pinned down. Local and state elections select the leaders that continue to let cops kill us without consequence. Protesting is going to do nothing if you don’t exercise an informed vote all the time, at every level. They don’t need to tell you your lives don’t matter, they are showing you.
Stop relying on one person to save our culture; we need to save ourselves. Voting for a politician is not screening for a romantic relationship. It’s voting for the best qualified person from the bench of candidates who can do the job. Stop getting in your feelings about fantasy candidates like Oprah, Will Smith and Kanye West. Vote for the best from who is running and hold them accountable to our community. If the politicians do not hold true to their word, vote them out and encourage true change agents to run for office. There are so many Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s out there waiting for the opportunity to improve our government: every day Americans with the intelligence, drive and passion to represent us well in the executive and legislative halls of authority. Conversely, I can guarantee that racists, sexists, race baiters, big business and those who benefit from the status quo will come out in droves to vote in defense of it.
Call on the strength, wisdom, and courage of our ancestors and unite as a collective. Do more than just pray for love and protest in the streets. It’s time for collective action. Don’t just vote in 2020; vote in every single election! When you begin to flex then you will see change happening. So pull up. Only then will we truly be our ancestor’s wildest dreams and become worthy of what they sacrificed for us.