As I began to watch the video, “Viral Justice: Pandemics, Policing and Portals,” I wasn’t sure if I was part of the target audience. At first I wasn’t really sure who the actual audience for the piece would be. But then I further listened to what Ms. Benjamin had to say I could totally feel that I was in fact part of the group of people her words were meant for. I have always been a firm believer in building up from the ashes. Much of my own life and career was built on past failings and shortcomings. Before becoming a Teacher I was laid off or had to reimagine myself because yet another contract had come to an end and my next assignment called for me to become something new. I disliked this life of constant struggle as much as I clamored to be a part of it. Hate and pain are brilliant motivators for change. As Ruha Benjamin states more than once, “racism constructs.”
No one should have to endure any type of hatred or discrimination. The root of the word discrimination is crime. Crimes against anyone – especially against humanity – should not occur not be tolerated. The pandemic has created a new age of society and there are predators out there ready to pounce on any given opportunity without discrimination. Ms. Benjamin’s presentation was clearly focused on “pushing back against anti-social” behaviors. COVID has forced man to communicate over technology and social media. There will always be those who want to take from a society and profit from it. Ms. Benjamin referred to these types of people as anti-social. This is also the negative side of capitalism. Again as Ms. Benjamin puts it, “rcisim creates.” Ms. Benjamin would also like the world to understand that the current norm in society is to not care about others, but to take care of one’s self first. Unfortunately, because of the lockdowns man’s caring for one another has begun to erode. Sure we help and care for those closest to us, but those we know little about or are far away, man’s ability to care for them from the heart have eroded considerably. I recently had a conversation with a friend about the sudden loss of sixty thousand jobs fro the closure of the Keystone pipeline. Yes, there are arguments for closing the pipeline. But as my friend put it, “we’re here and they are there…unless it’s right in your face no one is going to care.” Sadly, this is the type of sentiment Ms. Benjamin was speaking about. Part of me believes that I shouldn’t care for prisoners warehoused, as Ms. Benjamin described it, in facilities with out any type of health protections in place. Why should I care for murders and rapists? Didn’t they rob freedom from someone? Didn’t they strip the rights away from another member of society? However, I should care if there is to be any hope that some of the men and women warehoused in prisons can shed their anti-social ways.
I think what I found most refreshing about Ms. Benjamin, is that she wants to address the ability to create equity in the middle of so much unconstructiveness. Ms. Benjamin wants to confront the idea of symbolic vs systemic. The removal of the symbolic is something I believe in wholeheartedly. Systemic practices that continue to evolve are necessary to fighting viral injustice. Ms. Benjamin speaks of people as pattern makers. Society has a pattern of propping up the symbolic as a symbol of change yet no real change actually happens. Symbols of change need to represent change. Systemic symbols need to be paramount if we are to break away from the norm established by the dark side of capitalism. A line I came up, inspired by Ms. Benjamin, suitable for closing this piece: “I like the idea of weaving new electronic patterns over the old hate and pain-filled tapestry of the previous age.”