Donna Murch and Kay Whitlock join Beyond Prisons to think through the question “how do we get through this?”
Donna posed this question on social media in April as the COVID-19 pandemic peaked and motivated this conversation. We begin by thinking through who the “we” is in that question, and then we attempt to define what we mean by “getting through this.”
Donna points out that racial capitalism and the unraveling of already weak systems is making it clear who the “we” is. Kim shares how this moment has for me triggered an eerie feeling of calmness that is a trauma response to other experiences in my life. And Kay shares how this moment has allowed her to stop pretending and to think about how we can use our collective energy in this moment.
We talk about the importance of imagination at this moment and the need to share the testimony of people directly impacted by this crisis.
Finally, we discuss the rise of authoritarianism and how media reports of COVID-19 are filtered through racial-ethnonational lens. We end our conversation with some thoughts on mutual aid and how this crisis has the potential for teaching us greater responsibility for each other.
(Note: this conversation was recorded in April).
Kay Whitlock, a longtime activist and organizer in progressive social justice movements, lives in Missoula, Montana. She writes frequently on issues of structural violence in U.S. society. She is co-author of Queer (in)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States and Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness & Justice in American Culture and Politics. She is currently working with sociologist Nancy Heitzeg on a forthcoming book: Prison Break: The Deceptive Terrain of Criminal Justice Reform.
Professor Donna Murch’s teaching and research specializations are historical studies of mass incarceration/war on drugs, Black Power and Civil Rights, California, social movements, and postwar U.S. cities. She is currently completing a new trade press book entitled Crack in Los Angeles: Policing the Crisis and the War on Drugs, which explores the militarization of law enforcement, the social history of drug consumption and sale, and the political economy of mass incarceration in late twentieth-century California. In October 2010, Murch published the award-winning monograph Living for the City: Migration, Education and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California with the University of North Carolina Press, which won the Phillis Wheatley prize in December 2011. She has published articles in the Journal of American History, Journal of Urban History, OAH Magazine of History, Black Scholar, Souls, Perspectives, New Politics, and Jacobin.
Edited by Ellis Maxwell
Website & volunteers managed by Victoria Nam
Theme music by Jared Ware
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