The Unrelenting Anti-Blackness of 2020
Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Unrelenting Anti-Blackness of 2020

As the coronavirus and police brutality endanger Black bodies…

As if to resist the way Black skin drinks and dazzles in the sunlight, those invested in White supremacy have long redefined the hot months as a killing season. The Red Summer. The Tulsa massacre. And in 2020, despite the monotony of these endless ’rona days, that cycle seems be grinding into sickening motion once again. As shelter-in-place orders are lifted and folks trickle out into the world again, police and some unofficially deputized White citizens have been invigorated to get their summertime fun poppin’ early.

Bounties of ink will be spilled in the coming weeks about the lives of regular Black people doing regular things and somehow turning up dead. Poems and tomes will be conjured in the names of Black runners and bird watchers who are harassed (sometimes to death) simply for being outdoors; of lovers being riddled with bullets while in bed; of Black park-goers arrested and brutalized in the name of social distancing enforcement.

Just watch as 911 enthusiast Amy Cooper becomes a second-wave White feminist avatar who gets name-dropped in Lana Del Rey’s next attention-thirsty letter to the culture. Sure, the former is out of a job, a dog, and possible access to Central Park, while the latter got ethered by the same Black girl hives she stirred up for album promo. But watching a White woman play herself or a celebrity get dragged online just doesn’t hit the same these days. Not when you’re saturated by the deluge of racist bullshit flooding news and social media channels and distanced from your loved ones due to a deadly pandemic.

But now, Black people are being forced to swallow the twin sorrows of a deadly pandemic and our own murders being made public spectacle.

Quite frankly, we’re exhausted. I’m exhausted.

Covid-19 ravages on, but we can’t even console at-risk loved ones via video calls without being reminded that we can be murdered at any point for any reason. For no reason. It’s as if the ’rona killing us at vastly disproportionate rates isn’t enough. This shit is like feeding spinach to a fascist Popeye.

Consider the police response to armed White people occupying legislative buildings for the right to get a haircut, in comparison to the armed response against unarmed Black and Brown folks resisting brutality. This is nothing new. We’ve known that police have been discriminatory since their slave-catchin’ daddies rounded up Negroes centuries ago. We’ve known that they’ve recruited White supremacists for decades both on the state and federal levels. And we’ve known that those benefiting from White privilege generally don’t care about any of that unless it disrupts their daily lives. But now, Black people are being forced to swallow the twin sorrows of a deadly pandemic and our own murders being made public spectacle.

Yet this country and its institutions continue to ask, to take, from Black people on a regular basis. Our stars perform song battles and DJ sets on Instagram Live just for brief moments of escapism. As the majority of the essential workforce, we avoid each other on our death marches to work, our minds taking the brunt of the punishment our bodies seek to elude. Every morning, those of us working from home steel ourselves for Zoom meetings and Slack chats with non-Black coworkers who often have neither the language nor the wherewithal to offer support to hurting colleagues when photos and videos of the dead and dying go viral. When people are willing to risk their immune systems in protest of said injustices, we’re met with militarized police forces armed with tear gas and riot gear.

You know this already. There’s nothing new under the sun in a country where our entire global economic flow has been based on harnessing Black people’s bodies and spirits until they’re used up. Yet in these past few months, the powers that be — both in the cosmic and man-made universe — have felt especially anti-Black.

We all have to deal with this pandemic, with the election cycle, with dim-witted celebrities who refuse to read the room. The year 2020 has been hellish. The coronavirus has shown that venturing outside ain’t safe no more, word to Busta.

But really, for Black people, was it ever?