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GRIID Year in Review Part III: Reporting on the COVID crisis and how systems of power responded in West Michigan

December 21, 2020

(Editor’s note: GRIID does not ask for money, since we do not to make money for the IndyMedia we produce. We do, however, invite people to share our content, as we believe it can help foster important conversation about critical issues in this community.)

On Friday, we shared Part I of this four part series, with a look at how GRIID continues to monitor the news media and deconstruct their narratives. 

In Part II, we looked at the 2020 GRIID posts that looked at what the Grand Rapids Power Structure was up to. 

In Part III, we will focus on posts that looked at the COVID crisis, specifically through the lens of how systems of power responded to the crisis, who is benefiting from the pandemic and which communities are the most hard hit.

Organizations that are part of the power structure wasted no time in promoting their own policy agendas once the COVID pandemic hit Michigan. Marc Lamont Hill refers to this crisis as Corona Capitalism, which exposes how the system of Capitalism fails the public during a crisis, like what we are facing right now.

Beginning at the end of March, we posted stories entitled Disaster Capitalism in Michigan, with Part I focusing on Americans for Prosperity and Part II involving the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which has a long history of support from members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure.

We then continued with how organizations that are part of the power structure continued to promote Corona Capitalism, like the Acton Institute, which was providing the ideological framework to support the anti-lockdown protests. 

By late April, there were coalitions being formed within the Capitalist Class to promote re-opening Michigan’s economy along with many West Michigan business leaders

Another tactic that was being used by the Capitalist Class was to offer, as they often do, charity, which is primarily motivated by their desire to get good press. The DeVos family was doing this with the Kent County Relief Fund, which only lasted a few months. 

In early May, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) was tracking COVID 19 cases in this area, providing numbers by zip code and a breakdown of cases by race. The data the KCHD provided was consistent with what was happening across the country, with people experiencing poverty and Black residents had higher rates of infection and death. 

Later in May, the City of Grand Rapids had posted a video called We Will Rise, which attempted to present the same old narratives about Grand Rapids, narratives that not only sought to downplay who was being disproportionately impacted from the virus, but how centers of power were “helping.” The video also grossly underestimated the failure of the government/business response to the COVID crisis.

By July we were able to report on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds coming to Grand Rapids, an how sectors of power were often the beneficiaries of this funding. 

In August, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was brazen enough to publicly state that  the pandemic was benefitting the kinds of education policies she has promoting for decades, the privatization of education and the undermining of public education. 

In September, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against Gov. Whitmer’s Stay at Home orders and Republican lawmakers began to push the insidious idea of herd immunity.

Not surprising, once more businesses opened up, we saw a major spike in COVID cases across the state, especially in Kent County, despite all the claims from the Corona Capitalists that West Michigan was unique.

Ultimately, what the COVID crisis has revealed is the deep structural problems with the system of capitalism and how it is designed to reward those with power and privilege and punish everyone else. In Part IV, we will look back at some of the amazing work that was done in 2020 by grassroots social movements in the Grand Rapids area.

Graphic by Brett Colley

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