Plantation Politics, Paranoia, and Public Health on the Frontlines of America’s COVID‐19 Response


“Plantation politics” pervade multiple institutions in the United States, including public health. Drawing from my experience working as a volunteer at drive‐thru COVID testing sites in the United States, I critically examine the relationship between public health, the military, and capitalism when racial slavery serves as the sociopolitical backdrop of everyday life. I ponder what it means for Black people to toil for a country, in the midst of an emergent communicable disease outbreak, that would weeks later launch into protests for and debates about their entitlements to freedom, safety, and security. Starting from experiences of Black women on the frontlines, I reveal complexities that underlie and undermine notions of care as altruistic, natural, or ethical “in the wake” of chattel slavery and in the midst of racial capitalism.