This pandemic is being used as a tool in the U.S. settler-colonial empire’s battle against the colonized populations. This weaponization of the outbreak is coming at the same time when rapidly increasing global inequality is heightening capitalism’s contradictions, and when the oppressed nationalities that for so long have lived under the boot of U.S. capitalism are in turn intensifying their fights for liberation.
The empire’s effort to exploit the pandemic for these purposes stems less from a calculated extermination campaign (though the Trump administration did make Native tribes wait more than 80 days for a full pandemic relief package), and more from the disproportionate health risks that U.S. capitalism’s systemic inequities have created for the oppressed nationalities. Because Black, Brown, and Native peoples in this country are statistically far poorer and less healthcare resource-equipped than white settlers are, they’ve naturally been harmed by the virus in far greater proportions than has overall been the case for whites. The virus has also especially impacted Asians, who are traditionally victims of disproportionate U.S. capitalist exploitation and right now are being targeted with increasing racism due to the empire’s campaign to blame China for the virus.
Throughout this last fall, Blacks were 37 percent more likely to die from Covid-19 than whites, Asians were 53 percent more likely, Natives within the U.S. were 26 percent more likely, and Brown people were 16 percent more likely. As the Washington Post has observed about this crisis for colonialism’s victims: “Those higher case fatality rates for diagnosed people of color are on top of the increased infection rates for those unable to isolate at home because they are essential workers. These patterns have devastated communities of color across the country: multigenerational Latino households in Texas, Pacific Islander families in Washington state, African American families in South Carolina.”
In the Navajo Nation, the frightening day-to-day realities behind this situation are especially apparent, with the Nation having extended its lockdown last month due to what it called an “uncontrolled spread” throughout 75 of its communities. The Nation’s president described this recent upsurge in cases as “much more dire and much more severe” than even the devastating outbreaks the Nation experienced this spring. Washington D.C., the central base of the empire’s operations, is another place where colonialism’s intensifying horrors from this last year have been illustrated; due both to the pandemic and to increasing homicide rates amid rapidly rising poverty, nearly 1000 lost their lives in the District in 2020, 80 percent of whom were black despite blacks making up less than half of the city’s population.
The socioeconomic inequities behind this cycle of human loss aren’t going to go away with the introduction of Covid vaccines; they’re going to get worse as the Biden administration continues the country’s neoliberal era-progression towards greater austerity and working class disempowerment. And the disease outbreaks that global warming is expected to create in the coming decades will be far more destructive than Covid-19, with the oppressed nationalities no doubt being in an even more vulnerable position during those future points.
This is why anti-colonialists have been calling Covid-19 the “Colonial Virus.” The settler-colonial capitalist system’s perpetuations of the pandemic, and in some cases deliberate efforts to deprive colonized communities of the resources to defend themselves from the virus, represent a continuation of the colonial genocide.
Of course, poor whites have also been dying from the virus at far higher rates than those of upper class whites. And being white hasn’t shielded these lower class settlers from the miseries of rising unemployment, business shutdowns, evictions, or wage cuts (though as always with systemic injustices in this country, nonwhites have statistically been suffering from these things more). What’s motivating many of these settlers to fall deeper under the influence of fascistic reactionary politics isn’t some special immunity from the pains of late-stage capitalism. It’s the sense that being favored members of the oppressor “nation” of the U.S. empire, they stand to materially gain from an intensified subjugation of the oppressed nations.
This is what’s behind the dismissive attitudes that members of the MAGA camp largely hold towards the virus. It’s no surprise that the most racist and chauvinistic part of the white settler population is also the part that’s most eager to deny the seriousness of the pandemic; Trump, who tweeted “Don’t be afraid of Covid” after he was cured of the virus through an exceptional healthcare program this October, has joined with right-wing preachers and pundits to give the country’s reactionaries a disdain for virus safety measures and a sense that they’re above the health dangers which colonized peoples are under greater threat from. It’s a campaign to feed into the sense of aristocratic arrogance within settler-colonial culture, a logical extension of the attitude of American exceptionalism.
When the most loyal citizens of the oppressor nation view themselves as exceptional in the face of this kind of systemic crisis, an ideological base will exist for what the empire plans to do next: crack down on the rising forces of class and anti-colonial struggle. Our crises are causing the oppressed nations to fight back. The next Standing Rock is brewing in northern Minnesota, with environmental and indigenous groups mobilizing to stop the construction of a new pipeline. In Latin America, protest movements have been spreading in response to this last year’s rising austerity, and to the recent police brutality incidents which parallel the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The Black Lives Matter protests keep being perpetuated, currently in response to the first police shooting of a black man that Minneapolis has experienced since the George Floyd killing.
As these types of conflicts continue to escalate in the coming years and decades, the empire will react with extreme violence, both in terms of economic warfare (which we’ve already seen a version of during the efforts to deprive disfavored groups of pandemic aid) and in terms of drawing actual blood. The increasingly militarized police, the right-wing militias, and the military will be willing to carry out mass killings of disfavored groups if this becomes necessary to defend the empire from a serious effort towards revolution. If things get desperate enough, they’ll also be willing to institute the equivalent of Nazi Germany for the United States, with Canada likely joining this shift towards full-on fascism.
The empire’s internal military forces have gotten away with massacres against the participants in national liberation movements before, as well as with the enslavement and extermination of entire populations throughout the construction of the United States. The empire is now getting away with genocidal actions against refugees on the southern border, assisting genocides in Palestine and Yemen, and enacting a genocidal sabotage of the ability of colonized peoples to fight back against the pandemic. If we don’t make the right tactical moves, or equip our revolutionary cadres with the tools for surviving state terrorism, the empire will get away with far more.
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