The Masque of the Black Death (Racism in the Time of Trump)
In 1842, Edgar Allen Poe wrote the Masque of the Red Death, a prescient short story about a country devastated by plague. “No pestilence,” Poe wrote, “had ever been so fatal or so hideous.” But the Prince of the land ignored the epidemic. He holed up in his castle and held a masked ball, insisting the revelers dress in grotesque fashion, as if daring the contagion to threaten their immortality.
Psychoanalysis could barely do better in describing the madness of America’s current fear of death, manifested in the response to our dual plagues of COVID and racism.
In episode 6 of Madness: the Podcast, Steven Reisner finds Black Americans taking to the streets to stand up to both: the Coronavirus that disproportionately affects their community and to institutionalized white supremacy that makes COVID so much more deadly. What will white people do now with our fears?