As 2020 draws to an end, the 7,000 healthcare workers who died trying to save others from the coronavirus give me hope.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
It took the coronavirus to show us the face of God in a cruel and often evil world. This certainly is true in the United States where more than 1,700 healthcare workers have died from the coronavirus, 60 percent of whom were people of color, according to a report from National Nurses United (NNU). Fifty-three hundred more have died worldwide. This didn’t have to happen, but the fact that these workers stared death in the face and were willing to put their lives on the line so that others might have a chance to live is the quintessential meaning of walking and living one’s faith.
Many in this country don’t believe in God. Some believe as Karl Marx philosophized that religion is “the opium of the people.” One is entitled to believe what one chooses as long as it does not infringe upon the freedom of conscience of another. But if you have lived through what Black people in America have endured, including the last four years of a mad man who normalized racist and zenophobic tweets, left over 300,000 Americans alone to die from the worst pandemic in 100 years, and separated small children from their families and then locked them in cages, it defies rational thought that 74 million Americans would welcome this man as head of our nation for another four years.
Herein lies the problem–it is not rational that 74 million Americans, more voters than any other candidate for president except President-elect Joe Biden this year, would be good with Trump for four more years. It is more evil than wrong and irrational than enlightened self interest. If there ever was doubt, Trump and Fox News have proven how sinister and lethal capitalism’s ideological capabilities are. How else can you explain a corrupt and crazy real estate magnate embodying the hopes and aspirations of paranoid white workers?
The specter that has engulfed this nation, and those powers and principalities we struggle against, are of a dimension that cannot merely be explained by Western empiricism and rationalism. The belief that we too have resources, spiritual and otherwise, to fight, exist, and ultimately triumph against evil and wickedness is comforting. The spirit that dwelled within Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B Du Bois, Monroe Trotter, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Fannie Lou Hammer, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and so many others is available to us today.
I saw this spirit in the freedom fighters of the civil rights movement, and I see it today in the selfless service of our healthcare workers who heal and care for the sick with the coronavirus. When I reflect on the conditions under which they work: the lack of proper equipment to keep them safe, the constant downplaying of the virus by Trump, and the indifference to their mental, emotional and physical state of being as they hug and hold the hands of dying Covid-19 patients who would die alone were it not for them–I see it again.
The work of the courageous healthcare workers keeps me grounded and lets me know that despite evil forces amongst us, and our own contradictions, the spirit of hope, charity, service and love will never be extinguished by those very same forces. White slaveholders tried. Hitler tried. Charles Koch and all the dark money he assembled tried. Trump and his congressional nod squad tried. With whipped and broken backs we still stand and live to fight another day. Even though we compete on an unlevel playing field and sometimes don’t finish first, we are still competitive in the arena of life and our existence bears witness to the truth that we will never go away.
This is the faith I take into the future, into 2021, knowing that if it is going to get done–if the world is going to be fairer, just/er, and more humane–it is going to be the spirit of the healthcare workers that must stir our hands, feet, hearts and souls to action. This is my wish for the upcoming year–that we act more like God’s servants, believers and nonbelievers. That we individually, collectively, and on the policy level take action to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, house the homeless, clothe the naked, visit and release all captives who are held unjustly.
A Little Sugar in My Bowl
One such man who lived by this Gospel was John Sweet who’s column “John Sweet Like Sugar” was read by more readers visiting my blog Jabari Simama Speaks. This year I wrote and posted 9 columns. This is not to be confused with my twice a month column for Governing, a national journal for state and local public officials (but as many of you know many of the topics I write about are of general interest as well). Jabari Simama Speaks attracted over 4,500 viewers, mainly from the United States but also from China, France, Canada, Netherlands, and Nigeria, respectively, among others.
“John Sweet” was by far the most read column with twice the readership of the runner up, “Joe Biden’s Black Firewall.” This was followed by “Betcha Biden Won’t Pick a Sister,” then “What We Must Do to Stop Men in Blue From Killing Black People.”
More readers found my column from Facebook followed by search engines. I also received quite a few referrals from Governing.
“John Sweet” was my parting elegy to my friend and mentor who was an important social justice attorney and councilman who recruited me to serve on the Atlanta City Council. What was most notable about the column was the positive feedback received from his family including his son who now runs a dance studio in China. In my exchanges back and forth with his wife, Midge, I discovered a few things about him I did not know like how radical he actually was. I didn’t expect the feedback from the family but was humbled and pleased that the column provided comfort during an extremely difficult time.
“Joe Biden’s Black Firewall” dealt with the significance of the black vote for Biden despite the overwhelming support in the Black community for Bernie Sanders’ programs like medical care for all and free public higher education. Understanding this phenomenon is complex and I offered historical and cultural insights.
“Betcha Biden Won’t Pick a Sister” would appear that I got it wrong, he selected Kamala Harris, right? My column in essence was a daring him to do the right thing. Biden is a moderate to his bones in a time where changing the tone is needed but fighting for new and bold policy changes are even more imperative. If Biden does not live up to expectations–if he finds comfort in bipartisan milquetoast malarky–he is not only going to betray his base but also hurt Harris’s chances for becoming the first woman president.
“Stop Men in Blue From Killing Blacks” rounds out the top four. This column explores my relationship with the police union and evolution from viewing cops as racist pigs to conflicted public employees sworn to serve and protect but who often forget the service part of their mission. Defunding the police is a process that assumes that society will evolve to a point where violence and crime are no longer social problems plaguing our communities. My daughter and I have had many spirited debates about the meaning and practicality of this slogan and she swears I will be on the wrong side of history. Still I’m more inclined to agree with Mayor Ras Baraka, son of the late gifted radical poet, Amiri Baraka, who said asking for the police to be literally defunded today is a “bourgeois liberal” solution.
I am ready for the New Year to get here. I am pleased that the crazy orange man will be gone from the “peoples’” house. Many of us invested much in the idea that Biden might provide a bridge over troubled water and begin laying the foundation for a new America. I expect a return on our investment, will be watching closely and speaking out when necessary.