April 15th’s episode of “Under the Blacklight: The Intersectional Failures that COVID Lays Bare” featured Paul Butler, Bree Newsome Bass, Barbara Arnwine, Kehinde Andrews, and Jonathan Metzl. The five distinguished guests, moderated by Executive Director Kimberle Crenshaw, dug deep into the ways that Disaster White Supremacy has infiltrated national and international politics in order to reinforce historical inequalities. The spellbinding conversation brings another chapter into an ongoing series that’s attempted to inject political discourse with the intersectional dimensions that it so often lacks. You can listen to a podcast version of the episode here.
In the opening segment, Butler mapped the historical precedents for the supposed exceptionalism of Black bodies, and the ways that the systemized relegation of African Americans to the frontlines of the crisis has aided the illusion of white exceptionalism. To Butler, many of those locked up in jails -- unable to socially distance or gain access to proper medical equipment and care -- are serving a virtual death sentence.
Building on this critical foundation, Bree Newsome Bass offered an organizer’s view on the happenings of American racial plutocracy. She highlighted the ways that disaster -- particularly the daily violence experienced by those on the margins -- is not unique to this moment. In fact, the current visibility of oppressive forces is merely the result of the dim media lights being shown on otherwise uncovered sections of the American status quo.
Further examining the foreshadowed devastations of this moment, Barbara Arnwine gave the audience a vivid portrait of Wisconsin Republicans’ recent suppression of the vote. She made sure to note that it was an exemplar of the tried-and-true Republican approach to electoral victory: make it as difficult and dangerous as possible for people of color to vote.
This was far from the first time that the American right has deployed such a cynical tactic.
With a brief break to hear from our invigorated audience, Kehinde Andrews and Jonathan Metzl then steered the conversation fully toward the historical and the analytical. Echoing some of what the first set of panelists had illustrated, Andrews, the first Black studies professor in Britain, discussed how the British response to coronavirus displays the psychosis of whiteness that pervades all countries defined by histories of white supremacy.
Metzl drove home the significance of this lethal ideological fervor with a portrayal of the ways that whiteness serves as the principal concern for many Americans, even as they’re placed in the crosshairs of elitist demagogues like Donald Trump.
We’re hosting Episode Five -- featuring David Blight, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, William A Darity Jr., Ibram X. Kendi, and Kate Manne -- on Wednesday, 4/22 at 8 PM EST. You can read more about the panelists, and RSVP, here.
Until next time...