It has been a long three months in the United States. First, the early data of the deaths from Covid-19 in America reflected an unacceptable racial disparity. Then, the ongoing killing of unarmed African Americans by the police and others, culminated in the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, leaves us in pain. Now our streets are filled with protesters and we wonder how we got here. One word: Slavery.
In her recent article about assigning ‘blame’ for catching and dying by Covid because of race, Prof. Sabrina Strings states that the reason for deaths from Covid are directly related to the institution of slavery. Here is her New York Times article: “It’s Not Obesity. It’s Slavery.”
In May, the video of a young African American runner, Ahmaud Arbery surfaced. It shows him being chased down and murdered by two armed white civilians. His murder occurred in February, but his assailants were not arrested until “We saw the video.” The actions of the murderers reminded us of the ‘patter rollers’ or slave patrollers of the South during the time of slavery.
And this week our president threatening protesters with “vicious dogs.” This infers the horror of the ‘negro dogs’ that were used to hunt escaping slaves prior to the Civil War or the police dogs used against peaceful African American protesters in Birmingham in the ’60s. (See June 1, 2020 article in Washington Post.)
Unacceptable Racial Disparity
At the Witness Stones Project, we are updating and preparing our curriculum and teacher training to make implicit the relationship between slavery, deaths by Covid, and the death of unarmed Blacks. We will continue to tell the story of slavery in the North, by using the five themes: Dehumanization, Treatment of Enslaved, Paternalism, Economics, and Agency and Resistance. We will show how those themes are reflected in the twin pandemics: Covid and Racism today.