What seemed at first to have been a feckless and ignorant response to the spread of COVID-19 is starting to look more malicious over time. You can only bungle something for so long before the repeated missteps reach a point where they have to be more than just missteps.
There is reporting out this morning that a 17-page CDC document that would have offered guidelines for reopening the economy was shelved, buried by the White House. Picture for a moment how odd it is that the leader who demanded reopening, then reprimanded governors who did, then went back to demanding reopening, simultaneously doesn’t want anybody to have access to guidelines on doing just that.
There’s different ways to interpret this chaos. But regardless of why there’s chaos, chaos is incredibly effective at ensuring the kind of confusion that will inevitably lead to more death.
Couple that reality with the reporting that communities of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The CDC reports, in a study of 580 COVID-19 patients in the hospital that “45% of individuals for whom race or ethnicity data was available were white, compared to 55% of individuals in the surrounding community. However, 33% of hospitalized patients were black compared to 18% in the community and 8% were Hispanic, compared to 14% in the community. These data suggest an overrepresentation of blacks among hospitalized patients.” In New York, death rates among black Americans was 92.3 deaths per 100,000 and among Hispanic/Latinx persons was 74.3 per 100,000 while the death rates of whites was only 45.2 per 100,000.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the same chaos over reopening is happening again with how the administration chooses to deal with a disproportion of deaths among minorities. This Sunday, the CDC put out a directive instructing “physicians to test ‘persons without symptoms who come from racial and ethnic minority groups disproportionately affected by adverse COVID-19 outcomes — currently African Americans, Hispanics, and some American Indian tribes.'”
Three days later, the administration did a one-eighty on that recommendation, removing all mentions of race and ethnicity from its testing recommendations and reinstating its insistence that patients must present symptoms in order to get tested.
This chaos is meant to be deadly.
Picture with me if you can a White House that includes the likes of Stephen Miller–the mastermind behind the cruel separation and detention policies that have lead to minors not only being forced from their families but then forced to drink from toilets, sexually assaulted, or left for dead. Imagine an administration that has normalized that degree of cruelty for minorities already.
With me still? Can you picture Stephen Miller standing around with Jared Kushner and Donald Jr. sharing concern for black or Latinx Americans? Can you picture any of them instructing the CDC to prioritize care for these vulnerable communities?
You can’t. (Or, I guess you can if you’re either heartless or a liar, but if you’ve been paying attention at all, you know protecting the very communities they’ve spent three years attacking and harming is not their priority.)
To the contrary, it’s much easier to picture this administration gleeful that the very people they’ve been sending to their deaths with deportation orders will die of coronavirus.
There is no evidence–yet–whether this chaos, these changes to the guidelines, the hiding of this report, this consistent, dangerous and disastrous response to the spread of COVID-19 is either deliberate or intentional on the part of Trump administration.
But should it come to light that anyone in the White House was ever advocating for these more vulnerable communities to die, we should be clear what that would mean–genocide.
And I’m not talking about a hyperbolic, partisan use of a highly-charged word that can easily be misused or misconstrued. I’m talking about a legal definition the United Nations has used to determine whether an act of the crime of genocide has been committed against members of any particular group.
Let’s dive in to the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide,” a post-holocaust gathering of the General Assembly of the United Nations that adopted clear and concise language for determining what exactly constitutes a “genocide.”
Popular culture has largely misconstrued this definition because of the tendency to associate the term solely with the Shoah, so when we think of genocide, we think only of gas chambers or of a systematic extermination of an entire group, but with events like the Rwandan genocide or, more recently, the horrific violence seen by the group Da’esh in Syria and Iraq, we begin to see that genocide can come in all shapes and sizes.
Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
I don’t find it that difficult to see certain figures within Trump’s administration eager to deliberately inflict “on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” And they may be thinking of an added bonus: the destruction of a voting bloc that favors Trump’s opponent. When Trump won the last election by less than 80,000 votes, destroying the electorate through death would just be one more inevitable step on the Republican agenda to suppress voters in swing states.
As I said before, there’s not yet evidence that this administration intends for Americans to contract coronavirus and die, but there’s plenty of evidence that this administration has no intention to aggressively ensure that they live either. And judging by the actions of officials like Bill Barr or Stephen Miller, there’s also plenty of evidence that the cruelty and chaos are par for the course–at least much more than there is evidence that they are compassionate, caring, or eager to protect vulnerable Americans.
While such actions should be considered genocide, it’s hard to say they would hold up in an international court, first of all, because the United States, refuses to recognize the Geneva Convention or the International Criminal Court (ICC), and even if they did, there would need to be ample evidence proving there was an intent to kill, in whole or in part, black and Latinx Americans, not just for the motive of winning an election but with the primary motive being to kill itself. Suffice to say, it would be difficult to prove genocide, as it should be.
The cruelty, the fecklessness, the dereliction of duty, the crimes against humanity–that much is not as difficult to prove. It’s stacking up every day. But we move closer and closer to genocide with each day that passes. And the longer we do nothing, the more likely thousands more die.