Black people are not exempt from coronavirus
Stop listening to the do-it-yourself scientist in your barbershop (or polling place)
When Black History Month comes around, it’s lit for 28 (or 29) days straight for someone like me. You can easily find me wearing hoodies like “HBCU Educated” when I’m nowhere near a school, Jim Crow “Why I Vote” T-shirts when I’m hired to be an Election Judge, organizing giveaways for African-American Encyclopedias that I read for fun, and painting countless black ceramic pieces and artwork all over my home. I couldn’t care less about the Fourth of July; I’m on the prowl for what I can do on Juneteenth.
I am the type who will buy that “Black Girls Rock” hoodie to support Beverly Bond or purchase that “melanin poppin” accessory from your Etsy store. But sometimes black folks take our chocolate pride too far, and we have to say enough is enough. Who am I referring to? The conspiracy theorists in your barbershop, polling station, grocery stores and any other public place who are loudly proclaiming, “Black people can’t get coronavirus. It’s something in our blood.”
I was unaware of this declaration until I grudgingly agreed to stick it out as the Key and Cell Phone Judge from Chicago’s upcoming Election Day. For those who don’t know, the weekend before the election, there is one judge chosen to pick up the key to the inventory box and any other important information that must be dropped off when the election polls closed.
I expected to see some Election Judges and voters wearing surgical masks and maybe a few gloves, which I also plan to do. I was relieved to see antibacterial ointment everywhere. What I did not expect to hear was the conversation while I waited for my key envelope. An older gentleman (picture the one black guy in the barbershop who never gets a haircut but is always inside) was holding up the line to insist on telling the judges that coronavirus was sent by the government to wipe us all out. Now his theory was one I was ready to hear. This guy thinks everything is around to wipe out black people, and I’m not even willing to argue with anyone old enough to remember the Tuskegee Experiment. Let him have his thoughts; he has earned them.
But I was not prepared for the Election Judge who fired back that black people are immune to coronavirus because “it’s something in our blood. Only 12 Africans got it.” Where she got this statistic from is anybody’s guess, especially considering there are at least 105 cases from 11 African nations — with Egypt leading the pack at 59.
Black people, talk to your elders. We can’t go out like this.
The truth about coronavirus and black people
Under no circumstance do I claim to be an expert on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but I am running into far too many Facebook scientists and now in-person conspiracy theorists who know as much about the disease as the ridiculous man in the White House who thinks heat will make coronavirus dwindle. And the last thing I want to see is my skinfolk walking around thinking we can treat coronavirus warnings like we treat suntan lotion.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the groups that are at higher risk of getting coronavirus include older adults, and people who have serious chronic medical conditions (ex. heart disease, diabetes, lung disease). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has already confirmed that African-American adults are 60 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician. And the prevalence of high-blood pressure is highest in African-Americans, reports the American Heart Association.
And while we are constantly picked on when it comes to health reports, this may be the one time we’ve escaped the first-to-profile list. Right now, the stigma is (unfortunately) aimed at Asian people, travelers, emergency responders and healthcare professionals.
Are we well within our right to breath a sigh of relief for not getting blamed for something? Sure. But we’d be operating on dangerous ground to act like melanin and blood in black folks makes us all Black Lightning. As of now, the best ways to diminish the risks of coronavirus are to do the following:
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Limit visitors (especially strangers)
- Avoid crowds when you can (please still vote though and consider early voting when the lines are shorter)
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissue
- Enjoy the soulful sounds of Gloria Gaynor showing you how to wash your hands for 20 seconds
As of today, there are 1,629 total coronavirus cases in the United States, 41 that have lead to death and reported cases in 47 jurisdictions (46 states and District of Columbia). Do everything in your power — without letting hysterical strangers try to buy face masks off of your face — to stay safe and sane with your Black Girl Magic and Black Boy Joy intact.
Would you like to receive Shamontiel’s Weekly Newsletter via MailChimp? Sign up today!