Our Very Strength Invites Challenge(Russo & Russo, 2019)
It goes without saying 2020 has been an extraordinary year. A global pandemic, worldwide lockdowns and travel restrictions, whilst infection rates and deaths in the majority of the First World countries in the Global North have risen in waves to levels unseen for several generations. Alongside this there have been successes where countries like New Zealand and Taiwan have worked hard to contain the impact of this virus, bringing their communities together as they fought the virus.
Here in the UK though the disparate response to the coronavirus has involved the unwitting sacrifice of so many in order to minimise the impact upon the financial status of those at the top. So whilst we have increasing data on the health inequalities already experienced by Persons of Colour, LGBTQ, and the disabled, for example, have therefore been exacerbated by the pandemic, these are in danger of becoming issues which will not find purchase in any governmental consideration of how best to respond the impact of the lockdowns etc upon said communities.
For example, Black Lives Matter showed up just how much racial distress there has always been laying just under the surface of Global Northern culture. The barely concealed tensions between groups is now out in the open; so those who lifted themselves free of the boot of oppression have been met by those who have been vocally, or even silently, complicit in the oppression of racialised others. For me, the BLM movement brought with it a force majeure within the unconscious compliance of many which had been enabled transgenerationally over the centuries. Any awareness of the systemic racism which then doubly impacts the black communities is in danger of being ignored by the current government’s refusal to recognise racism as a societal factor, and even its drive to manufacture ‘black’ voices to deny the importance of works such as Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality.
This though does not just impact the black community. According to the BBC (Lungumbu & Butterly, 2020) gender roles have reverted back to levels not seen for a generation, and there has been an increase in women reporting greater levels of depression and other mental health conditions. This has been mirrored by the LGBTQ community who have reported greater levels of isolation and heightened concerns about substance misuse during this period, amongst other areas as well (The LGBT Foundation, 2020).
For those most wedded to their privileges, be they white, wealthy, able-bodied, heteronormative etc, in a Darwinian system where survival of the fittest is the mantra of a culture, they will more often than not inveigle their way to the top of the ladder, whereby they stay clear of the pandemical, racial, or equality, floods engulfing those beneath them. There is a comfort in the reversion back to the enmeshed collusion with the annals of systemic oppression of the other. So whilst many have reverted back to the patriarchal positioning of their fathers and grandfathers, others have recloaked themselves in whiteness’ culturally manufactured embrace. Conversely, more have found created chaos in the need to use Pride Month to vocalise their antri-Trans sentiments. In order for each of these, and many others, to work though there has to an other to re-marginalise, to reignite a war against, an opposition recreated to hate, to ignore, to fear, whose existence one has to deny. My view of these non-micro, but actually horribly aggressive and calculated attacks upon the other is that they are driven, in part, by the existential threat the pandemic has wrought against these typologies of egoic and cultural supremacy.
This fight against the other is horrific and pronounced right now, and why would it not be thus. The cultural pause created by the pandemic meant that so many of us had the time to stop and take stock of our lives. So whilst many realised that running on the capitalist treadmill was actually killing us, and whilst many others saw the oppression of the others for the first time, yet more realised that the reality they had built around themselves, a reality which afforded them not privilege but positions of supremacy which bolstered their identities, was being threatened by this said cultural staycation.
The idea therefore that we are all wading through this chaos together is therefore a bit of a nonsense. It does not mean that the other is all alone during this time. What it does suggest is that the other needs to find other others, that a banding together of those who have been on the outside is the best means of protecting ourselves from despair’s bony finger of solitude, meaning we come together to wade through these rising waters together.
There are challenges within this, but there is also a glimmer of hope. Whilst that first wave of pseudo-allyship performed by so many, individuals, companies, and countries, has now given way to the reality of those who are truly onside with the Civil Rights of black people, versus those whose very living depends upon the oppression of our many to them ‘coloured’ selves, this here now is the time we as black peoples find ports of safety within this endless turbulent sea of systemic oppression. I watch as this Second Wave approaches, where those embedded within the drives to challenge systemic oppression ask for assistance from myself and the many others whose voices had been loudly silenced before but who now shout it loud, proud and unfettered from the rooftops.
I always end a blog with a personal story, and this year’s one is no different. Whilst this year has been in many ways very powerful and productive for myself, there have also been moments where I have had to cut myself adrift from those whose racial myopia has caused me personal pain. This I have done with some sadness, but also some relief, both at the realisation of the pain I endured in order to reside within such cultural, or work related, constructs, as much as at the growth potential gifted to myself by such a deep seated separation from my racialised persona. The upside is this creates space for so many new friend and allies who for now I will travel with. As we exit the hell that has been 2020, this is the gift I remind you all of.
Lungumbu, S., & Butterly, A. (2020). Coronavirus and gender: More chores for women set back gains in equality. BBC News2. https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-55016842
Russo, A., & Russo, J. (2019). Avengers: Endgame. Walt Disney Studios.
The LGBT Foundation. (2020). Hidden Figures: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the LGBT+ communities in the UK (May 2020 – 3rd Edition) (Issue JUne).