Hundreds of people are unnecessarily dying every day with African Americans representing a disproportionate number of those deaths. Eighty million people are now without health coverage, millions are unemployed, over the next two months evictions will resume with an expected explosion of homelessness. And what is the response from the state that is tasked with the responsibility to promote and protect the fundamental human rights of its population?
While trillions of dollars were transferred to the corporate sector though the CARES Act meant to support the economy through the crisis, the state continues to ignore the existential crisis faced by millions of workers.
The zeal to save the economy at the cost of the systematic violation of every idea of a social contract to safeguard the rights of the people, along with the deliberate decisions not to marshal the resources of the state to ensure that everyone had access to the full range of medical care available, constitutes crimes against humanity by the US state.
The right to health is a human right. However, in blatant disregard for that right, the Trump Administration, with the full cooperation of the corporate sector, advocated opening the economy amid rising cases of Covid-19. Trump even used the power of the state to force workers to report to work at meat processing plants that were inundated with Covid-19 infections. These policies not only represented a cruel and inhumane disregard for the health and lives of workers but are international crimes.
Yet, one of the most egregious examples of the heartless contempt for the humanity and the human rights of the people since world-war two was occurring right before our eyes with impunity, until the people went to the streets sparked by the gruesome murder of George Floyd.
But with the focus on George Floyd and the series of murders by the police, the demand raised for something called justice, and by extension some kind of police reform process, obscured the gravity of the human rights violations and crimes against humanity that were occurring. This focus had the effect of shifting attention away from the systemic violence of capitalist oppression that created the underlying conditions and comorbidity in which Covid-19 overwhelmed the Black community with death.
The shift in focus was largely accidental. The people erupted in righteous anger in a wave of opposition that caught the authorities by surprise by its scope and intensity. Communities, large and small, expressed their outrage at the injustice with acts of solidarity.
Ironically, however, these beautiful acts of solidarity and struggle not only helped to almost disappear the issue of Covid-19 and its devastating impact on the Black community, the focus on “racial justice” and police reform allowed the state to subtly turn the discourse into a system-affirming discourse of potential change and a “we are the world” moment of national solidarity. Everyone from the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to the most reactionary corporate CEOs voiced their support for “Black Lives Matter.”
Public relations stunts like cops kneeling with protesters or even joining the demos were crude but surprisingly effective attempts to colonize the opposition in some areas and control the narrative. Those attempts were to be expected. However, the ease in which the narrative was refocused toward dead-end policy issues and an anti-Trumpism by the liberal corporate press was troubling.
There would be calls for international prosecutions and even a change in government if any other state outside of the US so egregiously violated its responsibility to protect the human rights of its population. We should demand one standard for all states and embrace the human rights frame.
More than two weeks ago the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) called for United Nations scrutiny related to the ongoing and deepening human rights crisis in the US. There were three factors that compelled that call: The failure of the US state to protect the human rights of African Americans, who were disproportionately dying from Covid-19. The decision to drive workers back to work despite inadequate protections and a gross disregard for their lives in industries like meat processing, which were experiencing high levels of COVID-19 infections among the largely African American migrant work force. And statements made by the President of the United States that indicated he was prepared to use disproportionate force against protestors demonstrating against the murder of George Floyd.Ajamu Baraka, "Bipartisan crimes," The News. 2020-06-29.
Keywords: Law and humanity , COVID-19 infections , Decision making , Human rights , International prosecutions , National solidarity , Police reforms , International crimes , Trump administration , Systematic violations , Corporate Sector