Not long ago, Waging Nonviolence published an article entitled, “The roots of revolutionary nonviolence in the United States are in the Black community.” The article covered the process, starting in the 1930’s, of African-Americans who traveled to India to learn about Gandhi’s philosophy on nonviolence — a philosophy that was, of course, later developed in the U.S. during the Civil Rights movement and embodied by MLK.
Since, then, many things have changed for the Black community, including having a Black American elected twice as U.S. President. But the situation today with the COVID pandemic paints a very sad picture. On February 2, a headline in USA Today proclaimed “The U.S. lost a whole year of life expectancy – and for Black people, it’s nearly 3 times worse,” underlining the gap that still exists between the white community and many people of color in this country. The latter make up the majority of our front line, essential, retail, and delivery workers, those having to face COVID-19 directly. Many of them also live in multi-generational families, presenting challenges for social distancing and quarantining. The primary challenge for communities of color is access to the vaccine. “My concern now,” says Dr. Fola May, a UCLA physician and health equity researcher, “is if we don’t vaccinate the population that’s highest-risk, we’re going to see even more disproportional deaths in Black and brown communities.”
We can see the vaccination rollout as the highest example of structural and systemic discrimination. Vaccine research and production is in the hands of private corporations, accessible to those with the greatest ability to pay. And states’ immunization plans are using technology as a filter: a person has to spend hours online, day after day, trying to get an appointment, which then could be canceled a day before. Let me ask you, who has the time, energy, and technological access for this?
The White-West has created these type of structures for centuries, making sure that white people are and stay in power. The financial structure is built on the same model as the vaccine implementation. A minority control the capital, then develop private structures for research and productions, which are then connected to a very complicated distribution/access system. It is as complicated for someone of color to get the vaccine as it is to gain access, for example, to financing for a house.
The Biden administration is working on immigration legislation that proposes a path to legalization for 10 million undocumented immigrants, mainly from Mexico and South America. For the past 20 years, the Democrats have tried to give some form of protection (drivers’ licenses, municipal IDs) to the immigrant community. Obama spent years of political maneuvering to get DACA reform passed, giving undocumented youth the temporary possibility of working and studying legally in the US.
But the question is: Why has so little been done over such a long time? It is because the immigration issue is not really about immigration, but about race. It is about keeping people of color out of the US. Our previous president expressed this sentiment very clearly during his campaign, using the allegory of the border wall with Mexico. It’s that image that gave him his win. The White-West needs the courage to call a racist racist, and stop trying to contour the issue by giving it another name. What needs to be addressed directly is discrimination and racism. The concept of race was created to label people of color instead of recognizing their humanity. Shirley Campbell Barr put it best: “We weren’t black until we came into contact with Europeans. We were just people.”
To keep the idea simple, the main problem for the White-West is universality. For White Power, nothing can be for everyone, because if it’s for everyone, then no one can control it. The White-West can’t keep being the VIP of the world. Working within today’s mental structure, “We the People” can’t really be fully implemented. Instead we have this abstract form of democracy, with limitations and rules set up to make sure that not everyone can vote, leaving many voiceless and without any representation.
If the White-West wants to learn and, most importantly, apply nonviolence, if it really wants to stop using violence as a way of life, it needs to start modifying the way it operates in the world, the way it defines and dictates what is and what is not. The problem is not the vaccine but its distribution. The problem is not money, but the concentration and control of it. The problem is not about education, but about the lack of universal access. The problem is not with politics, but with politicians trying to stay in power at any cost.
In this moment, the choice for the White-West is either to intentionally reject a belief in violence or to watch the continued downfall of our society. “We the People” has to become Universal, as therein lies the future of humanity.