Dr. Kwame Nantambu

COVID-19 & African-Americans

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
May 07, 2020

Indeed, one of the most tragic and realistic fall-outs of the novel, contagious COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is its most violent and deleterious impact/attack on African-Americans. Population statistics reveal that African-Americans comprise 13.4% of the national population but yet account for the following: in May 2020, Wisconsin African-Americans are only a miniscule 6.7% of the population but have accounted for a whopping 32% of COVID-19 deaths; in Michigan, African-Americans account for 14% of the population but 40% of the state's COVID-19 deaths; in Missouri, African-Americans comprise 12% of its population but 40% of its COVID-19 deaths; while the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that nation-wide, African-Americans are 33% of all hospitalized cases.

Why is that?

At the outset, it must be realized that persons, albeit elderly persons, with pre-existing medical illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are the ones most easily prone to be infected with COVID-19 coronavirus and eventually die. Needless to say, this group of such persons is made up of African-Americans.

Why is that?

The salient fact of the matter is that for umpteen decades African-Americans have been the overt victims of "benign neglect" by successive administrations in terms of a national public health policy. And to further compound and completely exacerbate this current unequal health system, one finds that President Donald J. Trump is still pursuing his dogged, ultimate intent to "terminate" Obamacare for all. Moreover, one needs to wonder why epidemics always seem to only directly target the poor, marginalized and "least of these in society".

Why is that?

As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the United States, it is really constructive and significant to note and observe that the majority of Americans among the 30m who recently filed for unemployment benefits were not African-Americans. In other words, there now exists in the United States a profound, new reality situation where white Americans are suffering economically while their counterparts, African-Americans, are dying disproportionally; or put another way, white Americans are losing their jobs while African-Americans are losing their lives.

Why is that?

It is at this crucial juncture in health care public policy decision-making process that a common, bi-partisan national plan should and must be implemented. Otherwise, the country would just be re-iterating and re-enforcing the "infamous" conclusion of the 1968 Kerner Commission Report on Race Riots in the United States as follows: the nation is "moving toward two societies, one black, one white---separate and unequal a system of apartheid" in its major cities.

The truism must neither be forgotten nor overlooked that COVID-19 is no respecter of persons. This coronavirus couldn't really care whether you're black or white, rich or poor, Democratic, Republican or Independent, live in the suburbs or ghetto and even if you are an American or not.

Truth Be Told: The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic's only final supreme decision is that as long as you are a human being any where on this planet, I will infect you and kill you, period. Case close, end of discussion. Now is your turn to stop me!

In the final analysis, now is the opportune time for all Americans to heed the poignant but apocalyptic admonition of slain Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the extent that: "Now the judgement of God is upon us and we must either learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or we are all going to perish together as fools." Or in the 1980s revolutionary jargon: "None of us is free until all of us are free."

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is Professor Emeritus Kent State University, USA.

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