Despite our extremely high numbers of infections and deaths, states have been opening up beaches, restaurants, beauty salons, and other non-essential spaces. For many of us, the motivation to open up has come from the very real economic consequences of not having a steady income.
But we deserve better.
Our federal government has squandered billions of our tax dollars on large corporations who cannot weather market realities. We continue to bail them out while small business owners get little or no reprieve, despite being the economic backbone of our country. American workers have seen the highest unemployment numbers since The Great Depression. Those of us lucky to still have positions are experiencing or facing threats of furloughs.
While white Americans have been hit hard by this pandemic, African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinxs have had the lights knocked out of our communities. As Americans who live in a multiracial, diverse society, we should be fighting for much more than risking our lives going to work. Since Bernie Sanders left the campaign trail, our nation’s revolutionary spirit has died down. But we cannot leave our democracy in the hands of political candidates and elected officials who may change every few years.
Our billions of hard-earned dollars should be supporting small businesses, families, and Americans from our most disadvantaged populations. This last pill is likely a tough one for many white Americans to swallow. Their communities have been ravaged by low wage work and decimated by the opioid epidemic during both Republican and Democratic administrations. Fox and other media outlets use coded language to promote a racial bogeyman that compels white Americans to buy guns to protect their families. Immigration from Mexico has decreased over the last twenty years, but Mexicans are still depicted as a threat to American workers. Refugees from other countries are fleeing civil wars linked to our nation’s drug habits, yet they are supposed to foot the blame for the decrease in life chances for white Americans. Still, whites continue to have a difficult time supporting their families on low wages and experience bureaucratic nightmares to receive benefits they deserve. It is little surprise that suicide has seemed like the only way out in their communities.
The media has focused on covering the horrible impact of Covid-19 on African Americans, Native Americans and Latinxs who are indeed dying at alarming rates. Rather than examining biases in the health professions, both implicit and explicit, “underlying conditions” are treated as the only explanation for these differences. This is despite the mounting evidence of biases in healthcare and even one nurse’s furtive, public critique of gross healthcare mismanagement in New York City, a hotbed for Covid-19. Working-class whites are also likely bearing the brunt of Covid-19 in comparison to their comfortable white counterparts. However, the media does not tell their story because it treats all whites the same regardless of class.
The reality is that people of color face the exact same issues as white Americans but compounded by discrimination and xenophobia. Instead of making weapons manufacturers wealthier, white Americans should be working with communities of color to improve the health, salaries, education, and overall well-being of our entire country. We need a new labor movement that is multiracial, multilingual, and inclusive of our diverse democracy. Americans, both old and new, should be joining forces so that our work does not just fund a CEO’s lobbying group or their umpteenth summer home. Americans need to demand a stronger social safety net from our tax dollars.
I am likely preaching to the choir but even the choir needs encouragement in dark times. If a less wealthy country like Canada can financially support the unemployed and underemployed during this life-threatening plague, the United States can as well. Local businesses, not multinationals, should receive a bailout from the federal government. The newly unemployed who have been paying taxes for many years, which include many undocumented immigrants, should receive financial support to weather this pandemic.
This pandemic shows that we still need dramatic change in our society. A new labor movement is absolutely necessary to improve American lives. However, no matter who wins in November, we should organize with worker centers, unions, and newer collectives to improve everyday working conditions and salaries, rather than making more millionaires through our labor. As Americans, we are the change that we have been waiting for.