Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Decriminalization of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Those of us who consider ourselves progressive religious leaders must answer the call of solidarity regarding the decriminalization of HIV.  To answer this call we must move beyond our narrowly defined identities,  issues, and concerns which are dictated, for the most part, to us by the powers that be.  That said, HIV is code for the New Jim Crow.  Through various "public safety laws" it has become a means to maintain power and control over black people, people of color and people of a progressive social justice mindset .  In this sense decriminalization of HIV is a necessary struggle against those who seek to control our destiny.

Sitting here at the HIV is Not a Crime Conference at Grinnell College in Grinnell Iowa with activists and advocates from around the U.S., Canada, England and Puerto Rico, I have been blessed to listen and to hear new thoughts and ideas regarding decriminalizing HIV.  It is a heavy conversation involving discussions on incarceration, racism, sexism, poverty, violence, homophobia, transphobia and the church.  It is about HIV as code for the New Jim Crow, a tool of White Supremacy.  It is stories of people incarcerated because they live with HIV and a particular moral panic which pervades all aspects of so called public safety. 

The need for public safety in white space, specifically in the context of governmental intervention at the state and federal level has contributed to polices and laws that seem, at least to me and other activists here at Grinnell, to be irrational.  Yet from a white supremacy point of view HIV is a weapon targeted, with intent, at an unsuspecting public.  In this sense, the person living with HIV is a threat and a menace to public safety, i.e., white space or white supremacy.  The result has been 100's even thousands of people living with HIV unjustly incarcerated.

As I write this post I am mindful that HIV is a component within a larger strategy designed by those who advocate and support white supremacy, to maintain power and control over the various populations and demographics of a vast, diverse and dynamic people.  Now it should be no surprise that the master of the plantation has need to maintain his control and ownership of the plantation and its slaves.  To this end he, and I do mean he, will do what he needs to do to ensure that things will continue as they have been for the last 230 plus years.

I suggest here, with regard to the decriminalization of HIV, that we, as progressive religious leaders, who long for justice must develop and build a strong movement of solidarity for the sake of our freedom and liberation, to break free of the master and his plantation, to burn it down.  We must, once again, embrace Malcolm X's words, "By any means necessary."  Of course we must have the courage of our convictions to fight the good fight, to go the distance with Christ.  If we consider ourselves progressive religous leaders in the fashion of Jesus Christ then we must live out our calling as set forth in Isaiah 61:1 (NIV).

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,…

- Rev Monica, June 3, 2014, Grinnell Iowa