Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, reopened gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbershops, and other businesses on April 24 in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic. Kemp informed listeners that his decision to reopen was well thought out, stating: “We have been surgical, targeted, and methodical, always putting the health and well-being of our citizens first, and doing our best to protect lives and livelihoods in every part of our state.”
Last week, the Washington Post reported that African Americans made up more than 50 percent of COVID-19 related deaths in Georgia. Ironically, the places that Kemp reopened are places many black people frequent. His rash decision does not align with the words he uttered of putting the health and well-being of all Georgia citizens first.
Would it have been too much to strategize with local leaders when the lives of those who are often the most vulnerable are at stake? The lives of black people have not meant much to the world, and the state Georgia is no exception.
Georgia has always tethered the line of justice. The millions of people enslaved who worked the land is a result of this tethering. The burning of black churches and black-owned businesses in Forsyth, Ga., in 1912 is a reflection of how Georgia views black humanity. When over 20 black children and young adults were murdered between 1979-1981, with no thorough investigation, this reflects how Georgia has cared for black bodies. When a gubernatorial candidate can be in charge of an election, participate, and then steal the election from a black woman, this shows the world how Georgia views black humanity. When more than 1.4 million voters can be purged from the voter rolls and no one is held accountable, this tells you what you need to know about Georgia.
Just this year, Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who only wanted to exercise, was killed by two white men who are still roaming the streets. The exclusion of black businesses from the aid currently being distributed through the federal government, and the refusal to give hazard pay to all essential workers, is a reflection of how this world feels about black humanity and those experiencing poverty.
The words of James Baldwin ring true today.
The Black people of Atlanta found themselves, today, and under the intolerably brutal and indifference public light, living nothing less than the ancestral, daily, historical truth of Black life in this country.
If humanity matters to God, then God is disappointed with the past and recent decisions of the leaders of Georgia. Brian Kemp and others who devalue life have committed divine and spiritual malpractice.
To be clear, I am not only concerned with the number of black, brown, poor, disabled, transgender, and gay people who have perished and will perish. I am concerned over the loss of human life, period. Because of this, black women in living rooms across America are calling on their ancestors. Our ancestors had to live through an illicit system wholly outside the moral realm. We too live in a corrupt system.
We live in a system that forcefully crushes people who are only looking for ways to survive. This is a time for communities and people who believe in justice to resist. We must not only talk about justice, but also live into the words of the prophet Fannie Lou Hamer: "Nobody is free until everybody is free." We must revisit the question posed by Howard Thurman: "What must be the attitude toward rulers, the controllers of political, social, and economic life?"
God is the equalizer.
God did not make this earth so that only a few could have adequate health care, and so only a few could have a home for their families. Everything God created God saw that it was good. Even when the past and present leaders try to ignore, cover up, and lie about what they have done, the blood of my ancestors will cry out.
Again, black bodies are devalued and overlooked in Georgia. The question is what will you do?