For more than 20 years, I have straddled the epicenter of plague. It effects billions--striking down young, old, those who scratch the earth with impossibly ancient hoes, those who pull fat tourists on rickshaws, those who are condemned to die in prison, those whose lives are taken by the police or in endless wars. Plague consumes children who ought to be in school but instead sit on great heaps of rock pounding them into smaller shards -surely a punishment straight out of Dante for young spirits who pine for the joy for learning. The plague discriminates brutally--a blunt and painful dissection, without anaesthesia. The dissection cleaves the boundaries of an abyss--the edges of which rot and fester; dividing the lands of the afflicted and the safe.
As an infectious disease doctor, I have learned to identify and treat only the symptoms of plague--the rattling cough of tuberculosis, the emaciation of AIDS, the festering wounds of leprosy, the profuse diarrhea of cholera, the isolation of Ebola.
Yet the root, the actual malady, the plague itself, is avoided.
The plague is racism, is inequality, is injustice.
The plague will only be addressed when #blacklivesmatter.
We are the purveyors of plague; of racism as status quo. The unchecked brutality of our police force, our public education system that produces massively unequal outcomes, our overseas development assistance that favors disrupting democracy and using private contractors over building long term public solutions, our endless "war on terror" that has killed hundreds of thousands, our justice (sic) system that has produced the highest rates of incarceration in the world. Plague is piped into our homes through fear-mongering 24-hour news, it is piped into our psyche by screaming commentators. Peace has become the Orwellian word for status quo. A status quo devoid of peace, justice, equality or equity. And those who keep the "peace" are an arm of the massive corporate-military beast that feeds on plague. Insatiable is this beast--just one more market, one more child laborer, one more corporate prison, one more war for profit...just one more morsel...just one more.
From the grand jury decision not to indict Darrel Wilson, who shot the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown Jr., to the video-taped homicide by officer Daniel Panteleo of Eric Garner as he pleaded, "I can't breathe," it is clear that tweaks of the system -- from police wearing cameras to another investigation -- won't work. A power structure has been created to perpetuate plague and the plague, as plagues are wont to do, is growing exponentially. From amassing reams of information on citizens around the globe, to incarcerating men of color in corporate prisons, to arming of police forces from New Hampshire to Kansas with tanks. Social control is absolute.
The plague must be fought, through solidarity, through programs to radically alter the landscape of who has power and influence and who does not, through investments in jobs, education, health, and through measuring the success of these investments against the achievement of equity--equity in educational achievement, in health outcomes, in pay, in rates of employment, in rates of incarceration, in treatment by the police and in treatment by the judicial system. Equity here, equity around the world, equitable value of human life--black or white or brown. #blacklivesmatter--they do, they must and the order of the world must be adjusted to end this plague.