Thankfully for our physical and mental health, it’s difficult to stay horrified for long periods. The human condition will not allow it – not because the visceral, fear-inducing nature of the still mysterious virus has been transformed, or because we’ve been persuaded by the emollient, metaphor-making of Deputy CMO Jonathan Van-Tam. We’ve turned our horror down from the adrenalin pumped 11 of Spinal Tap extremes because, however unimaginable, if things get worse we’ll need to turn the horror up again.
A killer virus has reminded us of our ongoing connection to each other as a social species, at the same time as our species level proximity to the edge, via a global death toll in the millions – regardless of the model iPhone you Tik Tok with; independent of which side of the Scotch egg as substantial meal or a snack; or the speed of No45’s relocation to Mar-a-Lago.
I’m no longer horrified. Respectful to those who have passed too soon, and with deepest sympathy for those coping with the aftermath; full of admiration for those who have worked indefatigably to tend to the sick, synthesise vaccines, keep us fed, watered, and functioning – but my horror reserves are depleted – now I’m mostly pissed off.
Pissed off because Covid-19 – for all of it’s novel, mutational quest for genetic survival – is hauntingly familiar. Covid-19 is a racist. While it bears little resemblance in activity to the British, racist far-right archetype – pasty, beer-bellied, incoherent, swivel-eyed, St George’s Flag abusing, thug – the pattern of poorer outcomes for people of colour as a result of the virus, would make a white supremacist rejoice.
Possibly, as happy as an EDL hooligan being carried across Westminster Bridge back to the safety of his racist mates on the shoulders of a Black man.
Lacking further capacity for horror, and with plenty of self-isolated time for reflection, breeds a seething resentment that is as recognisable as the ‘constant rage’ commonly experienced by Black people in racist societies.
Covid-19 stole our live-music, topical commentary, nice to get-to-know you, rice and peas, chicken and plantain Sunday Brunch
then it neutered the potential joy of the online meeting revolution by accelerating adoption, while adding an air of grudging resentment, removing any zing from zoom meetings
COVID-19 then put our parents and families in particular peril, making a mockery of the hokey, all-in-this-together, Blitz-spirit nostalgia, on which our popular media rely. The virus promoted widespread disappointment alongside the realisation that our political leaders are barely capable of cock-up, never mind conspiracy.
Covid-19 was used to derail demands for redistribution, reparations, and economic justice the march to demand an interminable debate about which of the old statues, or other assorted street furniture that we’ve never really paid much attention to, cause offense?
My new trainers languish – impossibly too white for too long while I ‘wait for an occasion’, (I won’t even mention my crisp new jacket that just hangs in a wardrobe, hoping for a trip to the supermarket)
My neighbour started with the constant flashing Christmas lights in October in an attempt to hasten a holiday,
Babylon over-performed under the cover of Covid-19; they delivered the seemingly impossible, managing to increase disproportionality between London’s Black and white men in the use of stop and search despite streets being largely empty for months of lockdown. 2019’s scandalous figures of 9.5 times more likely to ‘fit the description’ for those of us blessed with more melanin, were surpassed – disproportionality increased to NINETEEN times more likely.
Yet another Saturday-that-may-as-well-be-Tuesday passes, slowly. Again, social distancing means I’m unable to shake a foot on the dancefloor, or check out how fine y’all are looking (sans Insta filter)
COVID-19, the racist, has a Christmas surprise, hiding the impact of the triumph of the Brexiteer xenophobes behind the wardrobe; the unwanted Christmas present that it’s impossible to re-gift – even if you’re Noel Edmonds.
If I were the type who engaged in cancelling things in my life that I don’t like, Covid-19, the racist, and the field of deferred dreams that describe 2020 would both be prime candidates for cancellation.
I certainly feel better; thanks for giving me the space to be petty, petulant and pissed off.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, there’s space to appreciate the resilience, creativity and chutzpah of those who refuse to be cowed by the virus – who have been able to use the time on lockdown to build vital new work, refine approaches, and define the space in which we move forward. Time to appreciate, and express my gratitude and admiration. When we started the BLKOUTUK journey – we identified a real gap in activity that was led for and by us, and our QTIPOC extended family. It is great to see how much this has changed as a new generation of leadership emerges to take up space. As ever, we’re keen to be supportive, as well as mindful of our need to build more sustainable approaches to action so that our collective efforts lead to collective gain.
Later today (Sun 6th Dec) we launch our new regular event format – A S S E M B L Y.
Join us for an engaging, action-focused review of UK based, Black heritage and history interventions, and where our Black queer lives – starting at 6pm
Here are some of the questions that will be up for discussion