On Episode Five of “Under The Blacklight: The Intersectional Failures that COVID Lays Bare,” David Blight, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Sandy Darity, Ibram X. Kendi, and Kate Manne collectively navigated the historical contours of the current crisis and the pre-existing inequalities that make it so catastrophic. Building on last week’s depiction of disaster white supremacy, the panelists, moderated by Kimberle Crenshaw, undertook a vibrant conversation about the ways that capitalism, patriarchy, false conceptions of liberty, and racism have defined another dark moment in American history.
Bonilla-Silva led off the first section by grounding the audience in an understanding of the centrality of segregation and its relationship to inequality and health disparities. He further highlighted how white folks’ location of prejudice in the self occludes the possibility of realizing that collective policy and injustice are what marginalize certain communities to fend for themselves in times of crisis.
From Bonilla-Silva, the feminist philosopher Kate Manne connected the protests we’re seeing nationally to the white supremacist -- and crucially the patriarchal white supremacist -- policies definitive of American history. Furthermore, she emphasized that these systems of injustice create a sense of undue entitlement which justifies the potentially deadly occupation of “public” space.
Sandy Darity, the esteemed economist, built on a thematic of the “Under The Blacklight” series -- the underlying conditions of possibility. To Darity, the ultimate underlying condition of this crisis is the racial wealth gap; i.e. that Black people are 13% of the United States population yet control just 3% of wealth. The consequences of these profound and unaddressed inequalities are constitutive of what Darity sees as, functionally, a genocide.
David Blight, characteristically, grappled with the historical precedents for what unfolded in Wisconsin’s voter suppression efforts. Locating the ideology of white supremacy in the Republican party, Blight admonished the audience that the right-wing desire for a “limited” government poses a fundamental danger to the safety of all Americans. He used examples from the past -- perhaps most jarringly, voter suppression in 1898 Wilmington, Delaware -- to demonstrate the lengths that American racial powers will go in order to stultify the liberty of minorities.
Rounding out the second segment, Ibram X. Kendi pointed us toward the centrality of statistical ignorance in expanding the scope of COVID’s destruction. Like Blight, Kendi turned to history for an explanatory and severe note. Discussing the Mississippi flood of 1927, Kendi explained that then-Secretary-of-the-Commerce Herbert Hoover oversaw relief efforts and suppressed reports of racism. He was elected president the very next year.
The five panelists mined their snapshots and analysis -- and explored each other’s talking points and critical engagements -- over the second half of the show. You can listen to an edited podcast version here, or a full recording on YouTube.
Until next time...