The Antidote to COVID-19 is the Movement for Black Lives Policy Platform of Demands
Amidst the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, the national Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) has put forth a set of urgent policy demands. White People 4 Black Lives wholeheartedly endorses M4BL’s policy demands, and we pledge to fight for them — and against, in the words of M4BL’s platform preamble,the “the tragic and unnecessary theft and loss of Black life.” As white people, we know that our humanity is inextricably linked to ending the dehumanization and state-sanctioned destruction of Black lives. In this crisis, we embrace the opportunity to build solidarity with anyone who supports the demands of M4BL.
Our experiences of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic are deeply conditioned by the histories and systems of privilege, oppression, and violence that saturate each of our personal biographies. For the entire history of the United States, racist policies rooted in anti-Blackness and the dehumanization of Black bodies have governed, controlled, brutalized, and prematurely killed Black people. For these reasons, abolitionist scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore has defined racism as “the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death,” while the historian Evelynn Hammonds reminds us that “There has never been any period in [US] American history where the health of blacks was equal to that of whites. Disparity is built into the system.”
New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah Jones (twitter: @nhannahjones) reports that in Chicago (where Black people make up 30% of the city’s population), 70% of the people who have died from COVID-19 are Black; in Michigan (where Black people are 14% of the population), 40% of the people who have died from COVID-19 are Black; in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, over 80% of the people who have died from COVID-19 are Black. In Los Angeles, Black people are 9% of the population and comprise 17% of the deaths from COVID-19. In all major cities where we have racial data, we know that Black people are dying from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates, a legacy of ongoing systemic racism.
During this acute moment of crisis, we must remember that the mass violence and premature death produced by racial capitalism (rooted in anti-Blackness) and settler colonialism (rooted in Native genocide) are the original and ongoing pandemics. How will we overcome the pandemic of white supremacy, as the hospitals overflow and the body counts escalate? As we (virtually) link arms and struggle together for racial justice, the Movement for Black Lives offers a wise and urgent set of diagnoses for the interlinked crises that have been sharpened by COVID-19 and the racially just policy solutions for which we must fight at the federal, state, and local levels.
M4BL’s demands are grouped into five categories : Economic Justice, Justice for Incarcerated People, Housing Justice, Electoral Justice, and Health and Safety Justice. In summarizing the demands below, we encourage all to read the platform in detail and commit to organizing in support of (at least) one area of demands called for by the M4BL.
(1) With regard to economic justice, M4BL makes demands that include: paid leave for all workers, universal basic income (UBI), expanded access to basic needs for all, the cancellation of student and other debts, a tax on extreme wealth, the Green New Deal, job guarantees, and a stimulus package for working class people. M4BL states that “all relief efforts must prioritize Black families and communities over corporations” and includes a comprehensive list of demands related to mandating and expanding paid leave, free childcare for all, access to emergency funds for parents, homecare, and childcare providers, freezing tickets and fines, increasing SNAP & WIC benefits, and a UBI for all, including people who are incarcerated.
In Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter-LA is involved in expanding economic justice for Black people in the time of COVID-19 (https://www.blmla.org).
(2) With regard to justice for incarcerated people, M4BL makes demands that include: reducing the number of people who are incarcerated, ensuring safety and access for people who are incarcerated, ensuring safety for people recently released, and protecting migrants and undocumented residents by suspending all immigration enforcement activities.
In the Los Angeles area, many groups and coalitions including Dignity and Power Now (http://dignityandpowernow.org), Justice LA (http://justicelanow.org), and the Youth Justice Coalition (https://youthjusticela.org) are working on many of the demands M4BL outlines.
(3) With regard to housing justice, M4BL makes demands that include: access to housing and utilities for all, an end to housing discrimination, access to safe quarantine facilities for disabled and nondisabled people alike, access to preventive and urgent healthcare for all through a medicare for all single-payer universal health care system that includes people who are undocumented and people who are incarcerated, and access to educational, emotional, and nutritional needs for students. M4BL declares that, “all barriers to housing, healthcare, and education must be removed!”
In the Los Angeles area, many groups like Black Lives Matter-LA (https://www.blmla.org), Reclaiming Our Homes (https://reclaimingourhomes.org), LA CAN (https://cangress.org), and Students Deserve (https://www.schoolslastudentsdeserve.com), are making parallel demands at the local level.
(4) With regard to electoral justice, M4BL makes demands that include: nationwide emergency vote by mail (hand-marked paper ballots) and online voting for all, expansion of access to early voting, universal automatic voter registration and extended deadlines, and voting rights for people who are formerly and presently incarcerated.
To contribute to electoral justice goals in line with the M4BL platform, join Showing Up for Racial Justice’s (https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org) electoral justice work and pledge to “Collect Your Cousins” here: https://actionnetwork.org/forms/lets-collect-our-cousins-to-vote?link_id=6&can_id=0cbfbb707308c58d379b16c9047f704b&source=email-did-you-do-the-survey-yet-re-bernie-or-biden&email_referrer=email_748179&email_subject=4-hours-left-re-bernie-or-biden
(5) With regard to health and safety justice, M4BL makes demands that include: The immediate amendment of the Stafford Act  to be mandatory and no longer at the President’s discretion, laws to protect communities from militarized policing; the halt to all energy and petrochemical, toxic, and polluting industry infrastructure construction; ensure emergency powers do not result in heightened surveillance, policing, criminalization, militarization, and abuse of power against marginalized communities; redirect federal policing and military dollars toward groups providing medical and emotional support; police are forbidden from detaining and arresting people for breaking curfews and other orders, or for poverty-related offenses (e.g. sex work, drug trade, petty theft); a zero tolerance policy for police abuse; emergency planning must safeguard human and civil rights; access to the internet declared an essential public utility.
In the Los Angeles area, Black Lives Matter-LA (https://www.blmla.org), Students Deserve (https://www.schoolslastudentsdeserve.com), and Stop LAPD Spying (https://stoplapdspying.org) are involved in efforts to prevent the crisis from becoming an opportunity for the city to deepen surveillance and further criminalize Black and other oppressed communities.
White People 4 Black Lives (https://www.awarela.org/white-people-4-black-lives) is committed to working alongside and in alliance with Black organizers struggling against the pandemic of white supremacy and for a just response to the COVID-19 crisis of the moment. Black lives matter! We invite all who agree to review the detailed plans of the Movement for Black Lives here (https://m4bl.org/covid-19-platform/) and to join us in the work.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 28.
Jeneen Interlandi, “Why doesn’t the US have universal health care? The answer has everything to do with race,” NY Times, August 14, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/universal-health-care-racism.html
Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
This article is written by White People 4 Black Lives (WP4BL). WP4BL is a white anti-racist collective and activist project of the Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere (AWARE-LA) and operates within a national network of white anti-racists called Showing Up for Racial Justice. WP4BL is rooted in acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles. Visit www.awarela.org and follow us @wp4bl.