It is clear that Coronavirus is changing almost everything about how people across the United States — and in many parts of the world — think about topics of interconnectedness, capitalism and political institutions, and the challenges the United States must address. It is our duty to connect the dots between the crises marginalized communities are facing, and the solutions that will save us all.
For many of our most disenfranchised populations like low income communities, Black and Indigenous communities and communities of color, queer and trans folks, transit users, the youth and the elderly, people with disabilities, and women, interdependence has been a hallmark of our survival. Our reliance on public goods and services, on strong institutions that meet the needs of the most vulnerable, on reliable relationships, on sharing resources, is obvious to many of us (and inherent to how we build community). This interconnectedness contrasts “rugged American individualism,” as well as politics that focus solely on government based solutions or corporate wages as a means for survival. While COVID-19 puts many of these populations at even higher risk, the hope post-COVID-19 is that the United States, and the world, recognizes the increasing importance of truly supporting each other, whether or not a crisis is upon us.
We must first acknowledge that many of our most marginalized communities are constantly experiencing human rights violations, are targeted by local and national governments, and are living in places designated for environmental degradation efforts. Because of the onslaught of obstacles we face, we not only have the historical organizing knowledge necessary to uplift all communities and to demand bold solutions that address root causes, but we also know all too well who gets left behind in times of crisis.
Additionally, many in our communities know better than to trust government officials who continue to fail us and target us. Politicians view communities of color as dangerous or entirely disposable, and are more likely to create health crises in our communities than to address disparities. Now, we are seeing a large portion of the United States shifting trust away from major political actors and institutions, towards community responsibility and the need to quickly socialize services. Suddenly, as the economy heads into recession, many people are reconsidering what is considered a human right. Not only must we all educate each other about the historical failures and intentional design flaws of our political systems, but we must recommit unwaveringly to human rights.
The key to dismantling the dehumanizing systems that govern our lives is to genuinely, deeply care about each other. Our care for each other must extend to those who don’t look like us, or speak like us, or live like us, but many individualistic American values don’t support the kind of ingrained care we need now and after COVID-19. In contrast, when disenfranchised communities become political targets, we know that the only way to survive collectively is to care for each other, to organize, and to develop a better set of values and systems outside of American individualism. We have been doing this for as long as we have been targeted, and we know how to do it well. We believe there are many lessons our communities have learned along the way that are crucial to surviving this pandemic.
Lastly, we also posit that mutual aid is important and vital, but it is not enough. It is imperative that our solutions recognize how power structures are deeply entrenched, through political and economic systems specifically. We must not only put pressure on these systems to meet our needs immediately, but ask that they permanently change to prevent similar crises in the future, as well as address the crises that have existed in our communities for far too long. The general public’s attention is rarely captured like it is currently, and we must harness this energy towards justice: past, present, and future. We hope more people begin to understand how all our struggles are bound to each other, and every individual’s liberation is deeply intertwined with all others.