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Lets get back to normal, without disruptions: The Grand Rapids We Will Rise video

May 10, 2020

On Saturday, the City of Grand Rapids posted a video, which attempted to speak to the COVID-19 crisis. On first look, the video seems to be well intentioned, even attempting to inspire.

You can watch the video at this link, but here is the narrative that accompanies the images.

It’s a strange time we live in. We are part of a millenary history, made of dark times and the unknown. And together we face a common enemy, an enemy that does not discriminate, an enemy that threatens our home.

Home is not four walls and a roof over head. Home is everything we experience. Home is where family and friends gather. Home is where the heart is. Grand Rapids, our home. Our home was invaded by an intruder. Our lives were disrupted. Our way of life altered, and we were forced to close our home. But this is our home. We love our home.  And now, we must protect our home. We are a family of Grand Rapidians. A diverse family made up of businesses, neighborhoods and residents, all sharing a common bond. With the will to fight, to live, to win. And the strength and resiliency to move forward.

No intruder is too powerful for us. No challenge is too big for us. We don’t, we won’t back down. No, instead, we focus on our recovery. Our home, our city will recover and come back stronger. Our enduring family bonds will not relent. The intruder may have disrupted our lives, may have forced us to dig deep. And we did. We will be back from this disruption. There is an other side to this. The ding will soon return to our neighborhoods. We’ll support our businesses and help them get started again. We will re-open our home. We are in this together. And we will rise together.

After watching the video several times, I came to see the video not as well intentioned, but a very deliberate attempt to use the COVID 19 crisis as a way to present Grand Rapids as a city that is a wonderful place to live. It is true that Grand Rapids is a wonderful place to live…….for some.

The video footage used is dominated by scenes of downtown Grand Rapids, with landmark places such as DeVos Hall, the Van Andel Arena, Calder Plaza and the Grand Rapids Police Department. There are fewer images of residential neighborhoods. When it comes to people, we see a nurse, some volunteers, people being helped and several images of either people from the fire department or police officers.

However, the narrative is what is particularly problematic. First, the narrative wants viewers to think that Grand Rapids is a home, which has been invaded by an intruder. The use of the word intruder is hear more than once, along with the word disrupted. The narrator also implores the viewer to help in protecting this home, because we all have a common bond.

I’m sorry, but using the term intruder, with several images of cops and a line that says we need to protect our home, just ends up using a crime narrative, with good guys and bad guys. A virus is not an intruder and a virus does not have ill intent. A virus just is. More importantly, this video exposes some of the major problems of the city, even if it is intended to make us feel that we can defeat the intruder together.

In many ways the video produced by the City of Grand Rapids reveals what the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed about much of the world. What it reveals is that the ways we have been doing things – our economic system, our health care system, even the notion of labor and business are being exposed as inadequate, even fraudulent.

The video wants us to feel as though we are can get back to business as usual. However, the way things were in Grand Rapids before the COVID-19 pandemic was not so wonderful for everyone. Grand Rapids is:

  • A city that has deep rooted and institutionalized racism & White Supremacy
  • A city with thousands living in poverty
  • A city with a lack or affordable housing
  • A city where the GRPD disproportionately harasses and abuses black and latinx residents.
  • A city with the largest wealth gap in the state.
  • A city that practices a great deal of charity, but little justice.
  • A city that values places value on businesses and entrepreneurs over human rights.

All of these things are intrusions and disruptions in the lives of people in Grand Rapids. If Grand Rapids wants to deal with real intrusions and disruptions, then Grand Rapids needs to dismantle White Supremacy, end poverty, make housing a right for everyone, stop criminalizing black and latinx people, dismantle capitalism, practice justice and make human rights central to the work of the city.

Watching this video demonstrated once again that Grand Rapids oooozes whiteness and strives be embrace normative politics and culture. In the end the video does not represent the reality of Grand Rapids, it merely wants us all to believe that we are a family that will once again get back to normal, without disruptions.

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