The United States has been facing a period of turbulence in recent months, with the global coronavirus pandemic and mass protests against the police killings of African-Americans, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. These challenges have exposed government deficiencies and have provided civil society with an opportunity to play a greater role in the US. A combination of newer and more established civil society groups have attempted to respond to the pandemic and address government mismanagement of the crisis. Newer actors, such as religious groups and mutual aid initiatives, have stepped up to help communities respond to the pandemic.
More established organizations, such as unions, have taken strong positions to address workplace safety challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, leading to renewed interest in workplace organization. Large non-profit organizations that focus on human rights or civil liberties have led the way in documenting the danger that the pandemic represents to underserved populations, such as detained immigrants, and in filing demands to protect those populations and, at the same time, fight to defend civil liberties. Several religious groups have taken on the role of helping local communities deal with the pandemic and its second-order effects. The evangelical organization Samaritan's Purse deployed a field hospital in Central Park to help New York City treat the wave of coronavirus patients, although the organization's devout Christian principles, which include opposition to same-sex marriage, drew significant criticism.
Seeds of Hope, the food justice ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, addressed food insecurity through its current efforts to provide farm-grown fruits and vegetables to more than 30,000 families a week. Sikh communities across the country provided free prepared meals for local communities since their places of worship called gurdwaras are equipped with the tools and labor to feed large populations. Although some religious communities have faced anger for defiantly continuing in-person services, others have made online services available to ensure the spiritual and emotional well-being of parishioners or have organized services such as food delivery to help the elderly. Mutual aid initiatives have become increasingly important to meet the urgent needs of community members by delivering food, running errands, and paying for legal projects.
Mutual aid has a rich history among black liberation movements, from the first independent black churches in the 18th century to the Black Panthers or Nation of Islam in the 20th century. Mutual aid has been aimed at populations that are excluded from government assistance, such as undocumented immigrants. The pandemic has also led to a revival of labor activism. Workers have mobilized for higher salaries, protection against coronavirus-related risks in the workplace, and financial packages that range from severance pay to sick leave. In the early stages of the pandemic, most labor actions were carried out outside unions; on the other hand, unorganized workers (employees of non-unionized companies) carried out work stoppages using direct action tactics to pressure their superiors into responding to their demands - techniques called “solidarity unionism”.At this time when African Americans have suffered disproportionately in terms of health and economy from the coronavirus pandemic, deaths like George Floyd's and Breonna Taylor's at the hands of police officers made it clear that systemic racism is deeply embedded into US society.
Systemic racism affects not only police but also public health, economic development and other areas of civil life. As an example of systemic racism, Floyd's last words “I can't breathe” are particularly chilling considering this coronavirus has significantly affected black communities manifested in victims' inability to breathe. For many black demonstrators, systemic racism's seemingly inescapable reach made protest necessary despite risk of contracting coronavirus or suffering physical injury. The lockdown due to coronavirus has increased use of social networks which in turn has boosted civic activism. According to market research firm GlobalWebIndex during pandemic 49% Americans surveyed read more news on social networks and 30% shared more news on social networks.
The pandemic has created a more conducive economic environment for civil society groups to achieve radical change in policies such as defunding police. The pandemic has caused severe shortage of municipal funding across country which may force many mayors to reduce police budgets which for many cities constitute an important part of city's overall budget. Cutting funding for other departments providing services to citizens in need such as education or health is likely to provoke outcry from activists who argue these cuts exemplify problem of systemic racism and police overfunding. The current situation has highlighted how civil society can play an important role in US politics by responding quickly and effectively when governments fail or are unable to meet citizens' needs. Newer actors such as religious groups and mutual aid initiatives have stepped up during this crisis while more established organizations such as unions have taken strong positions on workplace safety issues.
Large non-profit organizations that focus on human rights or civil liberties have documented dangers posed by the pandemic while religious groups have provided spiritual support for their parishioners. Social networks have also played an important role by providing a platform for civic activism while mutual aid initiatives have helped those excluded from government assistance. In conclusion, civil society is playing an increasingly important role in US politics during this turbulent period due to government deficiencies exposed by both the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests against police killings of African Americans. Newer actors such as religious groups and mutual aid initiatives are helping communities respond while more established organizations are taking strong positions on workplace safety issues. Social networks are providing a platform for civic activism while mutual aid initiatives are helping those excluded from government assistance.