When Stigma Goes Viral, We Lose. When Community Support Thrives, We F*ckin’ Win

As history has shown as, stigma and misinformation always spreads faster.

From phrases about COVID-19 such as “Chinese virus” and “Kung-Flu” to photos masked Disney Princess Mulan and of charts that calculate “cough counts”, COVID-19 is another public health epidemic that exposes the failures of our current systems and institutions. It is also yet another reminder of how the real time response to this epidemic mirrors their not only the government’s response to the AIDS epidemic of the early 1980’s but how media literally blamed the AIDS epidemic on gay men by calling it “the gay plague.” It was community activism and organizing that cut through that hate and stigma to provide life savings support. And in 2020, as stigma around COVID-19 reaches its fever pitch, folks on the ground are continuing to fight back.

Issues related to ending homelessness, paid leave, and universal healthcare are those that grassroots organizers, frontline staff at grocery stores, delivery drivers, health care staff, and single parents, have been calling for. These groups, made up of predominantly Black and brown people, have historically been at the forefront of demanding reductions in police presence in communities deemed as vulnerable, and lessening fees related to rent, mortgage, utilities, evictions, etc. It shouldn’t have had to take an epidemic to have once “radical” policies be considered or implemented on the local, state, and federal levels.

What’s also not new is the power of community. Due to the lack of a bold response to COVID-19, neighbors and community members are supporting each other through social and mutual aid networks. Although there may be some technical bumps in the road ahead of video calls and webinars, the power of community showing up and showing out for each other has never been greater.

My friend’s neighbor left him a note today that said “Strange times require strong communities.”

In Solidarity, GV

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