The largest protests in history have been organized, calling for an end to white supremacy and racist policing in America. What is a mass movement around fundamental, institutional shifts has challenged and sought to dismantle oppressive power structures. The call for abolishing police, once sidelined in conversations of police brutality, is putting focus on the material reorganization of how resources are allocated in our society.
We are now talking about rehabilitation instead of mass incarceration, social intervention instead of punitive action. This goes beyond facile arguments of reform, tactics, and training, it is about transforming our relationships to each other, and the very institutions which facilitate them. The conversation around abolition, or addressing the conditions which make police necessary, gets at the heart of systemic racism in our country – something wound up tightly in our impenetrable racialized-class hierarchy.
Throughout, the coronavirus continued to rage in the US. As confederate monuments came down, infection rates spiked, continuing to disproportionately impact black and brown communities. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez puts it, in our country, “It’s inequality that is the pre-existing condition.”
The federal government, as well as those privileged enough to not bear the costly weight of their actions, seems to have thrown in the towel, perhaps counting on numbness to staggering death tolls. It is a clear result of our nation’s priorities: keep the economy rolling in form, its workers trapped between a deadly virus and poverty, with one amplifying the other.
These large, systemic issues often seem far off in our rural valley, relegated to cities which receive the bulk of media coverage. Yet locally, these crises impact us in unique and specific ways. In light of work-from-home opportunities, we will likely continue to grapple with gentrification as wealthy, overwhelmingly white families flee the cities from where they worked. Without specific policy to protect working-class, poor, and houseless residents, like strong rent control and massive investment in housing stock for low income communities, “growth” will likely worsen the already extreme levels of inequality that exist in the region.
A recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that minimum wage workers could not afford a two-bedroom rental in every single state in the US. In Oregon, a worker needs to earn $24.47 an hour to make ends meet.
Our minimum wage is $12. And In 95 percent of counties across the US, a one-bedroom rental is unaffordable at minimum wage levels.
Nearly 51 million U.S. households do not make enough “...to survive in the modern economy,” according to a report by the United Way. Month to month, citizens cannot cover basic needs such as housing, food, and health care.
In a positive turn, an eviction moratorium was thankfully passed in Oregon, offsetting yet again the looming threat of mass houselessness for those already on the brink, hit hard by the economic damage of COVID-19.
We are on the precipice, teetering between an uncertain future and moments of imaginative hope. It seems we are barely holding on to a way of living incompatible with this “new normal.” How can a well-intentioned community begin to actually reflect the society it nominally cares for if living here is reserved only for those with wealth?
When thousands marched in their respective cities this month in support of Black lives, it felt as if there was a clear political appetite for structural change in our Valley, a desire to respond to what we now see as interlinking issues of race, policing, and poverty. But change takes ideas, and a movement needs direction. How will we respond? What path can our area take to realizing a more just future?
Counterbound works to platform ideas, distributing thoughtful, timely writing, art, and poetry. We are concerned with two questions: What can we learn from each other? What should we leave behind?
The former an act of solidarity, the latter is a plan.
For Issue 2, we feature essays on houselessness in the Rogue Valley, the context of land-based reparations in our Valley, ableism in our current moment of political upheaval, and a local artist confronting racism. And, of course, for print subscribers, two poems, a collection of visual art, and an abolitionist pocket zine.
All of this from local contributors.
“As citizens, we understand that the right to speak has to be facilitated, bolstered by institutions and protected by laws. But we’ve been slow to see that, if democracy is to function well, listening must also be supported and defended.” Documentary filmmaker and political theorist Astra Taylor writes in an essay on listening. “By definition, democracy implies collectivity; it depends on an inclusive and vibrant public sphere in which we can all listen to one another. We ignore that listening at our peril.”
During coronavirus, every action takes a new consequence, and each week carries the weight of the looming future. As COVID-19 infection spikes and political movements progress, we are realizing the weight of our collective action.