“I’m happy to report you stayed classy, San Diego.” That is how San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer addressed the community as local beaches and parks reopened on April 27. That class, however, was San Diego’s white ruling class.
San Diego County has a COVID-19 rate of infection of about one-third the national average, with about 180 cases per 100,000 people. The number is similar for San Diego city.
The low rate of San Diego COVID-19 cases has been an impetus for celebration amongst the political and business (aka white) class in San Diego. Local businesses and tourist locations have reopened with social distancing standards in place. These serve the purpose of preserving the local white economy at the expense of the African and Mexican working classes whose labor fuels that economy.
According to San Diego County official statistics, per 100,000 people the wealthy white beach cities of Solana Beach, Carlsbad, Encinitas and Coronado have respective rates of 50.2, 61.9, 66.5, and 83. The rates in Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe are so low that a rate has not been produced. The average median family household income of these areas is $118,000.
The story is different in cities with large African (black) and other colonized working class populations. The rates in the communities of Chula Vista, National City and Spring Valley per 100,000 people are 338.7, 501.1, and 652.4. The average median family income of these cities is less than half the coastal areas at $57,000 per year and an individual income of about $28,000 per person.
El Cajon, California, the center of San Diego’s Arab community, has also been hit hard with 362.8 cases per 100,000 people.
Adjacent to Tijuana, Baja California, San Diego’s South Bay has the highest rate of infections. This reflects the crisis across the border.
Colonial borders hasten disease pandemic
Whites make up a plurality of San Diego County at 45 percent of the population while Mexican and Spanish-speaking Indigenous (Latin American) people account for 34 percent. As of May 7, whites had 967 cases. Nearly double whites, Mexican and Spanish-speaking Indigenous people had 1,910 cases.
The highest rates are in majority Mexican and Indigenous border cities and neighborhoods. San Ysidro and South San Diego have been the hardest hit.
A count on May 16 listed South San Diego, zip code 92154 at 545 cases and San Ysidro, zip code 92173, at 240 cases. Together, the South Bay communities account for more than half of San Diego County COVID-19 cases.
To put this in perspective, San Diego County is over 50 miles from north to south. Over 2,000 of the cases are within 10 miles of the false colonial border with Mexico.
As with Tijuana, the crisis in San Diego’s South Bay is the result of American imperialism. Reactionary border closures have hastened the problem.
The travel bans and deportations have led to the spread of the novel coronavirus in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, as well as throughout the Americas. Camilo Montoya-Galvez of CBS News noted that 20 percent of Guatemala’s COVID-19 cases are people recently deported from the U.S. Montoya-Galvez also noted that nearly 50 percent of those locked up in ICE custody who have been tested have tested positive for COVID-19.
In a May 15 article for Foreign Affairs, journalist Doug Saunders writes: “Travel bans and border closures do little to halt the spread of infectious diseases even when they are implemented with sufficient notice and preparation….When travel restrictions are hasty and haphazard, they aren’t just ineffective—they can be counterproductive.”
The closing of the border sent large amounts of people relocating. Tijuana residents who work in San Diego and San Diego residents who work in Tijuana, as well as the thousands of people in other places, were rushed home.
For the wealthy communities with abundant food and medical resources, this has ensured their safety. Poor and working class Mexican communities on the border have suffered.
Revolutionaries wage internationalist struggle against COVID-19
Union Del Barrio of San Diego (UdB), the Raza Internationalist vanguard of the Chicano-Mexican Liberation Movement and Indigenous movement “from Chile to Alaska,” has offered leadership in the battle against COVID-19 in San Diego by raising the colonial contradiction.
UdB highlights that the problem is not medical but political and economic. “Within the U.S. this pandemic has unmasked the moral and institutional bankruptcy of the most advanced for-profit healthcare system in the world as one that is designed primarily to maximize profit, while proving largely useless for addressing the foreseeable COVID-19 health emergency,” UdB writes.
UdB moved their annual May Day action from Chicano Park, its traditional site, to a combination of virtual webinars and a caravan.
Local members of the African People’s Socialist Party and the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement participated in these actions. The African People’s Socialist Party and Uhuru Movement have had a nearly 40 year long relationship with Union del Barrio rooted in solidarity in the anti-colonial struggle.
UdB’s May Day Coalition published five demands that spoke not only to the COVID-19 crisis but to overturning the crisis of imperialism. 1) Free Universal Healthcare, housing and education. 2) Union jobs with living wages for all workers: Reparations for Indigenous and African people. 3) No cages, No Camps, No walls; Free All Political Prisoners! 4) End to Police/Migra (ICE) Terror; Abolish Colonial Borders. 5) No wars, No sanctions, No blockade; Hands off Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Palestine and Yemen!
The African People’s Socialist Party supports these demands.
Join the African People’s Socialist Party and The People’s War campaign against COIVD-19 at apspuhuru.org.