The Social Contract and the Game of Monopoly: Listening to Kimberly Jones on Black Lives

Debarati SanyalAnti-racism

As Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the United States was poised to cross the threshold of 100,000 COVID deaths. We were grieving those who lost their lives to the virus, cut off from friends and family, gasping for breath alone in emergency rooms, nursing or private homes, detention centers, on the streets….We were holding our breaths as we read the daily toll of the pandemic, disproportionately taking Black and Brown lives. Far from being a “great equalizer,” COVID-19 reveals the virulence of structural racism. African Americans are dying of the virus at three times the rate of white people in America. As some official channels urged us to follow the protocols of social distancing and physical isolation in the interests of collective care (and others defied precautions in the name of rugged individualism), an officer in uniform sank the full weight of his body into the neck of a man who once said he wanted to touch the world. “I can’t breathe, man, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe sir….”. Chauvin’s impassive gaze at the iPhone recording the murder, surrounded by accomplices, bystanders, and witnesses, conveyed absolute confidence in his impunity. He looked as though he was snuffing out a life that did not register as human, or as a life at all. It is the expression we might see on the face of an arrogant hunter with his kill, or someone merely resting their knee on an insensate thing.

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