Slavery, Economic Slavery, and The Covid Pandemic

A Very Short Read

Meat Processors

I’ve finished reading “The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a story about a young Black man born into slavery by a Black woman raped by a white plantation-slave owner. The young man first worked in the tobacco fields, but was later moved to work in the plantation house where he learned to read and had access to the owner’s extensive library.

I ran across this passage:

“As I learned the house and began to read, and began to see more of the Quality (Upper class Whites), I saw just as the fields and its workers were the engine of everything, the house itself would have been lost without those (the slaves) who tasked within it. My father, like all the masters, built an entire apparatus to disguise this weakness, to hide how prostrate they truly were…The masters could not bring water to boil, harness a horse, nor strap their own drawers without us. We were better than them — -we had to be. Sloth was literal death for us, while for them it was the whole ambition of their lives.”

I think of the agricultural workers, and the hospital housekeeping workers, and domestic workers, and the food packing plant workers, all essential to our survival, and all making choices between work and death. I realize that much is left from those antebellum days of exploitation and misery. It’s just been dressed in new rags.

Such is the world that this virus has stripped bare for us to see.

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Joseph Abramajtys

Joseph Abramajtys

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