The white world went from overt outrage over George Floyd’s murder to an outpour of support and enthusiasm for president-elect Joe Biden, to Floyd as a nameless nominee for Time’s highest honor (eventually awarded to Biden and Kamala Harris). Another notable shift was from “vote like your lives depends on it” to “vaccinate” for the same reason.
The abrasiveness of the messaging lies in the curt shift which betrays what Derrick Bell called the interest-convergence dilemma. The interest-convergence dilemma contends that “the interest of blacks in achieving racial equality will be accommodated only when it converges with the interest of whites” (523). Concerning the contemporary moment, anti-black abjection as worthy of media coverage and cultural outrage only occurs when beneficial to white intention.
Given the history of blacks and scientific racism, it is not unusual that this vaccination has met extreme adversity from the black community. The black community has endured Tuskegee and lived the experience delineated by Harriet A. Washington in Medical Apartheid. We were the bodies operated on without anesthesia to afford others a greater quality of life, and, as Henrietta Lacks, delineates, were legs thrown aside, and the most intimate areas scraped of substances that killed us but would be used to save others. Moreover, this country is not asking black people to take a vaccine, but “be” a vaccine. We are to embody the vessel used to heal humanity at the expense of our own.
We, the black collective, are still expected to “restore the soul of this nation,” as president-elect Joe Biden contends, with the sacrifice of our souls and the bodies that contain them. To say that this is unfair would be an understatement. What the black collective witnesses here is yet another case of social, systemic, and biological genocide. This country steps over a terrain laden in black bodies to demand black trust.
The structure of this year betrays a systemic plot to employ blackness as a weapon against black people. One of the greatest ways to enter the mind of the oppressor is to read between the lines of the films— especially the messages implemented by actors in “colorblind” casting. Here, I am thinking about the film Gemini Man (2019), where Will Smith’s adversaries attempt his assassination with his clone. The biggest assaults against black people will always follow a black face, or black optic. Let us not forget that it was black nurses that escorted black men to their Tuskegee fate.
Similarly, from consistent references to its black female conception and a message from Dr. Fauci directly to the black skeptics, the vaccine has all the bearings of a black optic. In a country forever damp in black blood, the black optic takes a variety of forms under the common promise to better the lives of those they symbolically represent. The issue with the optic is, of course, what lies beneath. What lies behind a black optic is the contemporized overseer and master, and what lies behind the vaccine is the lash of the whip of white supremacy, the gradual shut down of internal organs, the fatal tug of a noose, and the trigger of a gun.
After weighing heavily on the consciousness of black people for over four-hundred years, the country proved very intentional with the last twelve months in intensifying cultural desperation and helplessness. As a vaccine, or cultural sacrifice, George Floyd, operates as a “necessary evil,” the same problematic phrasing that an anti-black ideology employs to conceptualize enslavement. Thus, Floyd’s role in anti-black intention was to vacinnate America from its illness. He was what America needed to begin healing from a pandemic far more deadly than COVID. While the racial pandemic is far larger than COVID, the black sacrifice only garnered traction as an optic when running parallel to another global illness, because as history has told us these interests must converge and blacks must bear the burden of bridging contentions with their bodies.
The metaphorical vaccine is only about Americanizing Black Death as a national necessity, used to surge supremacy at the expense of ensuring that the black collective remains a dwindling minority.
Floyd, and Taylor, worked to seal the fate of the election, which to many took the form of a vaccine in its promise to heal both pandemics. Ironically, many have already fallen ill, and now it is the vaccine itself that promises the other side to a global pandemic. A vaccine that bears the very promise slavemasters made to the enslaved with religion. It is the lust for “the other side” that makes so many open to solutions that act as a bridge, yet, perhaps it’s time to walk over a bridge not painted red in black blood or erected in black bones.
Furthermore, the hashtag #firstthem has perhaps never been more appropriate.