Where we stand‎ > ‎News & Comment‎ > ‎


posted 6 Jun 2020, 19:13 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 6 Jun 2020, 20:09 ]
1. The United States of America is reeling from four crises: the COVID 19 Pandemic, Economic

Dr. Godfrey Vincent is an Associate professor of history At Tuskegee University; Co-Coordinator of the Integrative Public Policy and Development. 

He is the co-Editor of Contended Perspectives of Neoliberalism and has published in Journal of Labor and Society. Dr. Vincent is completing his manuscript called Rebels at the Gate: The Oilfields Workers Trade Union in the Era of George Weekes.

Dr. Godfrey Vincent is a longstanding correspondent on this website

Social Unrest, and Political turmoil. 

2. In terms of the first crisis (COVID 19), the number of confirmed cases has reached 1, 908, 787, and number of deaths has climbed to 109, 379 at the time of writing. While the number of deaths has declined tremendously in New York City (one of the epicenters), there has been a great spike in several states that have reopened their economies. 

An Axios report (6/4/2020) noted that Texas, Arizona, and Oregon saw significant spikes in COVID 19 cases. Southern states like Alabama, Florida, and Georgia have also seen significant rises as well. Given the number of protests and demonstrations, Health experts are fearing that the number of cases will rise and there might be a second outbreak.

Moreover, MNSBC has reported that more cases are spreading rapidly on fish trawlers. For example, American Seafoods has confirmed that at least 86 members on board a fishing boat have tested positive for COVID 19, while docked in Bellingham, Washington State. Furthermore, the Navajo nation has been severely impacted by the virus. Writing for Aljazeera News, Creede Newton reported that Navajo Nation leaders announced last week that it had the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rate in the United States, outpacing hot spots like New York.

The grim statistic highlights the historical failings of the US government, Navajo leaders say. There were 4,794 cases out of the Navajo Nation's 173,000 residents as of Monday 1st June, according to Navajo Nation authorities, and that number could rise as testing increases. At least 157 people have died.

3. In relation to the economy, 1.9 million more Americans have filed for unemployment (6/04/2020) bringing the total number of unemployed to 42 million. The May jobs report has shown that the economy added 2.5 million jobs. The question to be asked here is what the quality of jobs are, the pay rate, and the benefits derived from these jobs? While the status quo on Wall Street and the White House will be celebrating these numbers, the economy is not doing well for millions of Americans. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for African Americans stands at 16.8 %. In some parts of the country, the rate is even higher.

While the millions of job losses have impacted the working class, the working poor, and the lower middle classes, American Billionaires are living “fat off the hog.” A CNBC report (May 21, 2020), has confirmed that, “American billionaires saw their fortunes soar by $434 billion during the lockdown between mid-March and mid-May, 2020.” The report further stated that, “Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
Amazon warehouse workers are suing the retailer for allegedly failing to provide protections against the novel coronavirus such as adequate supplies to sanitize their workspaces. One worker claims she contracted COVID-19 at the warehouse, and subsequently infected her cousin, who died after experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had the biggest gains, with Bezos adding $34.6 billion to his wealth and Zuckerberg $25 billion." 

4. From this data presented on unemployment and income earned, we clearly see the emergence of two Americas: One where the rich continue to supersize
Thousands of residents in California lined up for nearly three hours to receive free food
their profits at the expense of millions of low wage, and middle income workers, and the other, where the majority of the masses line up for hours in food banks, are evicted from their homes and apartments, possess college degrees but working at Starbucks, unable to pay their college loans, living on the streets and in homeless shelters, and find themselves on the unemployment lines filing for unemployment benefits.

This pandemic has widened the income gap between the 1% and most of the population. Millions of people are presently unemployed, unable to pay their rents and mortgages, purchase food to feed their families, and living without health care

5. In addition to the growing unemployment and wealth and income disparities, the economy is also being affected by business closures. Many longstanding retail establishments like JC Penney, Sears, Macy’s, Pier One Imports, J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom etc., are either filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy or closing stores. The Pandemic forced these businesses to close their doors, furlough workers, and in many cases fire workers. While the president wants to re-open the economy, the reality is that Main Street is shutting down the economy.

6. Despite the celebration from the White House about the job numbers, the states are in dire financial straits and are pleading with the Federal government for funding. So far, the Trump government and Senate Republicans have refused to budge. Because of the short fall in revenues, State governors will have no choice but to slash budgets for education, health, social programs, etc. These cuts will only exacerbate the situation and create more unemployment and poverty. 

7. In terms of Social Unrest, the murder of George Floyd has intensified the level of mass protest and demonstrations. From 2014 to now the police have murdered many African American people including Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Christian Taylor Alton B. Sterling, Paul O’Neal, Keith Lamont Scott, Laquan McDonald, Akai Gurley, Walter L. Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Samuel Dubose,
The murder of Laquan McDonald took place on October 20, 2014, in Chicago, Illinois, when the 17-year-old African American was fatally shot by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Police had initially reported that McDonald was behaving erratically while walking down the street, refused to put down a knife he was carrying, and lunged at them. Preliminary internal police reports described the incident similarly and ruled the shooting justified and Van Dyke was not charged in the shooting at that time.

When a court ordered the police to release a dash cam video of the shooting thirteen months later, on November 24, 2015, it showed McDonald had been walking away from the police when he was shot.
Philando Castile, and Terence Crutcher. From all these murders, Black Lives Matter was formed and led most of the demonstrations. Most of the people that participated in these protests were black.

8. However, Floyd’s murder has changed the equation. Scenes from all the demonstrations in every major city and other smaller regions have shown the emergence
of a new coalition. Many young whites, and other people of color have joined in the protests and demonstrations. Why have they joined in? Young whites and others have seen their economic fortunes gutted out from the Great Recession to the present. They are saddled with student loans and low paying jobs. Secondly, they understand that they are not going to enjoy the American Dream that their parents and grand parents enjoyed. This economy has exposed the lie that only Black people are in in danger of extinction. The young whites have decided that the only way to confront the system is by making an alliance with Black and brown people. Some commentators have stated that these major protests and demonstrations is an inflection point in the US. We will see how long this coalition lasts. Will they return to the status quo and support the right wing if their fortunes turn?

9. Furthermore, the social unrest in the streets has revealed that not everyone was there to protest for justice and equity. Criminal gangs used the opportunity to loot and destroy. The Agent provocateurs were there to redirect the movement so that the Security forces would crack down on the legitimate protest. The Neo-Nazis and other groups were also there trying to start a race war. The Liberals were also there trying to redirect the movement towards the political parties. We must understand that in any struggle there are all kinds of forces who participate to try to either hijack or derail the movement.

10. Moreover, this social unrest is not only about police murder and brutality. It is about 400 years of systematic racism from Slavery to Black Codes; from Black Codes to Jim Crow Segregation; From Share-cropping to Prison Chain Gang Labor; from Civil Rights to Affirmative Action; from Burning, looting and destroying Black businesses and property. It is what the late Toni Morrison has said, “On the Backs of Blacks.” The US economy was built on the Blacks of Black people who remain oppressed and marginalized. The young voices in the streets are saying we are tired of living off reforms. We want systematic change and we are prepared to struggle until those demands are met.

11. The movement has decided that the protest will continue and that a major march will be held in Washington, DC in August. This will be a very long “Hot Summer.” As Rachel Maddow likes to say, “Watch this Space.”

12. On the political front, the Trump administration has taken desperate measures and have placed the armed and security forces on the streets in DC. The administration is using violence on the people just like the Chinese government used on its people in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Moreover, it wants to send the military in all the states to put down what it calls lawlessness. This is akin to fascism and the destruction of people’s rights and freedoms. While the beast appears to be wounded, it is prepared to violently put down all protest and demonstrations.

George Floyd: Soldiers Protect White House on & # 39; 6th Night of ...13. However, this decision has caused other fractions of the elite to break with him. The retired generals and others came out strongly and opposed the president’s use of the military to put down social unrest. They have cited the Posse Comitatus Act which outlaws the use of the military to be used against US citizens. In a year of the Presidential election, it will be interesting to see if the protesting elites will break with President Trump and side with Biden.

Moreover, we will see whether Trump’s politics of divide and rule will change. He is using the Nixon playbook of Law and Order. Nixon used this during the Vietnam War when social unrest erupted in America. He appealed to the Whites in the suburbs the south and mid-west. Trump is hoping that Whites will run scared when they see looting and property destruction. It does not appear that it is working; the young whites are not buying it. This old fifty odd year strategy will not work in 2020.

Liberal politicians of both races are scrambling to response to the crisis and to co-opt the movement. On Wednesday, The Los Angeles City Council announced that it will cut up to $150 million in funding to the L.A. Police department. It has identified $250 million from the city’s budget that will be invested in jobs, health, education and healing focused in L.A.’s black community. They explained that cuts will be made in every department, including the LAPD (KTLA5). In Washington, D.C, the Mayor has announced that one of the streets leading up to the White House will be renamed “Black Lives Matter” Plaza. As time progresses, we will hear of more and more liberal reforms to pacify the masses. Will it work? Will the liberal politicians co-opt the leaders of the protest just as they did in all major struggles?

14. We are living in very interesting times. We are witnessing history unfold right in front of our eyes. The times are interesting because this new generation is not afraid to confront the status quo. They are very smart and intelligent and know how to use the new technologies to organize and mobilize. These youths who were six years old when Michael Brown and Eric Gardner were murdered are now in their late teens and early twenties. They are the ones leading the protest. Their generation has figured it out and are fulfilling their historic mission to continue the struggle against the beast. While they understand the severity of the COVID 19 Pandemic and the impact it is having on their own lives and communities, they are prepared to take to the streets to fight a much greater crisis that is upending their lives and communities. They understand that the issue goes way beyond Police brutality.