Time for the facts because I'm tired of the antiblack victim-blaming I see floating around Al Gore's internet about why Rona is killing Black people at unprecedented rates. It's time to break this down for the folks in the back who really think Black people, not social distancing or eating fried food is to blame. While this may contribute to the numbers, it isn't the cause. Those are symptoms of a much more insidious issue.
Rona is claiming the lives of Black people for the same reasons Black mothers and infants are dying at disproportionate rates...racism and white supremacy. Yes, the two biggest pollutants on the face of this earth are the reasons why 70+% of Covid-19 victims are Black.
It's time to bust some myths...
Myth: Black people are dying because we are predisposed to health issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes. If we just changed how we live and what we eat, this wouldn't be an issue.
Fact: Systemic racism has biological impacts on the health of Black people. Numerous studies show that while on the outside Black might not crack, internally, on average, Black people age at faster rates, shortening our lives and predisposing many of us to diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Stress from hypervigilance, microaggressions, code-switching, navigating the never-ending cascade of white tears and playing white fragility bingo also contribute to the biological effects of racism.
In the podcast episode, "What Expecting and New Black Moms Need to Hear" with Epidemiologist, Dr. Theresa Chapple, we discuss how racism impacts us at a cellular level by shortening telomeres (stretches of DNA that help protect the ends of your chromosomes from damage or fusing with nearby chromosomes), increasing allostatic load (the wear and tear on the body" which accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress), and the weathering hypothesis (which states that chronic exposure to social and economic disadvantage leads to accelerated decline in physical health outcomes and could partially explain racial disparities in a wide array of health condition). Basically, chronic stress, related to racism, weakens Black people at a cellular level, aging us at faster rates and makes us more susceptible to chronic, life-threatening illnesses. Chronic stress can also make one more vulnerable to infection because it can lower your body's ability to fight off infection and increase one's ability to even be susceptible to getting the infection in the first place.
"A common underlying risk factor across many diseases of aging is the length of telomeres—the repetitive sequences of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that protect the cell. Short telomeres increase people’s risks of developing diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia. Because telomeres get progressively shorter as people get older, they are considered to be an indicator of cell aging."
But wait...we still need to be social distancing and eating more healthful foods right? Of course! I'm going to repeat this many times because folks love to "well actually" things to death. Black people are still responsible for own lives. We are not helpless. There are things we can do to mitigate our risk of dying from Covid-19, BUT (that but is big ya'll), we are not responsible, for the damage already done to our bodies because of white supremacy and our gaslighting ass Uncle Sam who is still responsible for the institutional racism we face on the daily. Because even if we are born into wealth or work our way into it like Serena Williams, we'll still find that racism is always lurking behind door number one, ready to claim our lives...member how Serena almost died of a blood clot because her doctor didn't listen to her? Which brings me to the next myth...
Myth: Black people would rather pray an illness away than go to the doctor.
Fact: Ok, let's say this is partly true. Let's say many of us would rather put our faith in Jesus, than healthcare professionals. Don't ya'll care to understand why? Or is treating Black people like uninformed zealots just easier for you? There is a reason many Black people have major trust issues in the medical field, which means many of us don't seek out preventative care. Care to guess why? I think you know the answer...it's ok, you can say it...racism and white supremacy!
To justify enslaving millions of Black people, white supremacist doctors concocted myths about physical racial differences that are still believed
Apparently we have a higher threshold for pain, thus were the perfect candidates for horribly painful and inhumane experiments, our skin is thicker, we bleed less, and we have weak lungs that only hard work can cure. Yeah, just a bunch of made-up nonsense by lazy white people who didn't want to work the land. Add on top of that the antiblack sentiments perpetuated during Jim Crow that painted Black people as uneducated liars who can't be trusted, and you start to see how white supremacy in the medical field has continued to shape the biases still prevalent in textbooks and in the attitudes of many medical professionals today. Black people have been victims of biases in the medical field for going on 400 years now. So much so that even algorithms in a program used by hospitals and insurance companies were less likely to refer Black people to the programs that provide more personalized care. How are we supposed to trust people who keep failing us then turn around and blame us for the natural consequences of their failings? How Sway? How many stories have you read about medical professionals not listening to or believing us? How many Black women have died at childbirth because medical professionals won't take us seriously?
We have to be sicker to receive the same level of care as a white person and even then, we have to fight harder to receive it and after all that's said and done, our lives are still seen as less valuable. Have you heard of the save-the-most-lives principle? Basically, if we have critical shortages doctors are being advised to give the ventilator to the person with less comorbid diseases, the one who is healthier one and who will most enjoy their life after recovery. Read that again and let it sink into your bones. Who is sicker? Who will be less likely to live a fuller healthier life? How will implicit bias and racist myths about our bodies affect how this decision is made? The ramifications of this are scary AF. So, I'm not surprised Black people have more faith in an invisible God, than some healthcare professionals.
This ain't about fried chicken and grape soda y'all, but since you brought it, let's talk about it...
Myth: Black people are dying because we care more about good food than good health.
Fact: Diet does play a factor in one's health, we can't deny that. So does access to healthful, whole foods in your immediate neighborhood. Because of systemic oppression, redlining, and disparate wealth distribution, African-Americans are more likely to live in lower-income communities, they have less access to healthy foods because farmers’ markets, health-conscious grocery stores and community gardens are often located in higher-income neighborhoods while fast-food restaurants and discount stores find their way into low-income communities. Sounds like more racism to me..what ya'll think?
"From the moment the first European colonists and enslaved Africans arrived 400 years ago on the shores of the New World, slave holders instituted an economic system where food was used as currency. It was a disparate system planted with seeds of white privilege and rooted in racism." -Yvette Blair-Lavallais
Some 23 million Americans live in what food justice activists choose to call food apartheid, which is a system, set up and maintained by a series of human choices, in which some people are permitted to live in a community with a supermarket nearby, and other people — mostly people of color — are not. Millions of people (mostly BIPOC) do not have access to a supermarket within a one-mile radius. But go to a predominately white neighborhood and healthful options abound. From Whole Foods to Trader Joe's, the access creates opportunities to make better, more healthful choices. So many people, including some Black people, really believe we don't care about our health, never taking environmental food justice issues into consideration. It's frustrating, to say the least.
Which brings me to my last point...
Myth: Black people are reckless and irresponsible. We aren't social distancing which is why we're dying at higher rates.
Fact: Nothing drives a racist point home than viral video after viral video of Black people partying in the streets, going to church, or going to eat discounted crab legs. I'm going to need ya'll to start questioning who it benefits for you to share these videos on social media because it only fuels the idea that we are our own worst enemies in the media. The real enemy, our worst enemy is white supremacy. Because of structural racism, Black people are overrepresented in essential jobs that require us to leave our homes. Jobs that many of you felt didn't deserve to earn a living wage of $15/hr. Because of structural racism, redlining, and white flight, more Black people live in more crowded urban areas. On top of that, centuries of economic insecurity means many of us are just one minor economic setback away from tragedy. So why are more Black people out in these Rona scented streets? Because we HAVE to be.
"The labor market experience for African Americans has historically been worse than that for whites, and this continues today.There are several factors that have contributed and continue to contribute to this. These include repeated violent oppression of African Americans such as the riots that destroyed Black business owners’ wealth on the Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, codified segregation, legal racial terrorism during the almost century long period from Reconstruction to the civil rights era, systematic exclusions of African Americans from better-paying jobs, and continued occupational segregation."
So basically, because of racism, no matter how educated we are, Black people are still denied high-paying, "white-collar" jobs and even if we do break that glass ceiling, we are often faced with discrimination and microagressions on the regular. We make up a major portion of service workers who ya'll are depending on right meow to sit comfortably at home and criticize people who can't social distance.
Sure there are some hardheaded nakers out there, doing THE most and not giving a shit about the consequences. Those people exist in every race, yet, you're only seeing Black folks in these viral videos...coincidence?
In fact, if you look at how the media is skewing the conversation around Black people and Rona, we are living up to every single stereotype and racial trope made popular by Jim Crow. Tropes that describe Black folks as lazy, violent, stupid, and in need of constant policing lest we will tear shit up and kill everyone around us. The reality is, we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. Many of us are hesitating to wear face masks for fear of police harassment yet we'll also get harassed if we don't. Last week, two Black men were kicked out of a Walmart for wearing n95 facemasks and this week another Black man was forcibly thrown off a bus for not wearing one...we can't win for losing. Many of us want to shelter in place and stay TF home, but can't because the country still needs to consume things in order to survive. Many of us want to trust the medical profession, but we're afraid and don't know how to overcome that fear.
Listen, like I said a few paragraphs up, we are not helpless. Black people need to do as much as we can to mitigate the risks of contracting this disease, including eating as healthy as we can and staying home as much as we can. But I'm gonna need ya'll to stop spreading these myths about why we're dying at alarming rates that place all the blame on Black people. We cannot dismantle white supremacy, but we can stop being gatekeepers of it. Stop sharing misinformation. Stop inviting people to your nonexistent TED talk about how we need to eat better and exercise to stop dying at unprecedented rates without mentioning structural racism and systemic oppression. Start doing the work to help call it out and dismantle these systems that are the real cause of all these deaths. Check your white friends and colleagues when they're spewing some racist bullshit. And most important, fight like hell to advocate for yourself and your loved ones. Ya'll are in my prayers. I don't know you, but I love you and I'm praying for your safety and health. Be well fam!
Yolanda Williams is a Certified Positive Discipline Coach and Host of the podcast Parenting Decolonized, a show that unpacks how colonization has impacted the black family and teaches parents how to raise liberated black children without breaking their spirits. When she’s not advocating for the safety and liberation of black children from white supremacy and parental oppression, she’s chasing her toddler around the house and trying to remain sane.
LINKS: To advertise on the podcast: https://www.parentingdecolonized.com/about Become a member of Conscious Parenting for the Culture: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CPTime/ To check out ALL of my past guests + episodes: https://www.parentingdecolonized.com/podcast If you have questions about booking Yolanda or sponsoring the podcast, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.