Op-EdOpinion

BURTON: Dear Black People — Coronavirus Can and Will Kill You

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, or “‘rona” as some are calling it, will kill you. You may have seen some of the conspiracy theories, myths or outright lies floating around the internet stating that Black folks cannot get coronavirus. You may have the false belief that those with “melanin poppin'” cannot get this deadly virus or if they get it, will not die from it. Stop the madness.

Actor Idris Elba, NBA stars on multiple teams and Black folks in your everyday life have it. You may have heard the sad case of retired nurse Pat Frieson, 61, who became the first casualty of the virus in Illinois. What looked like an asthma attack has now been classified as coronavirus. Frieson has a sister in the same hospital also suffering from the same symptoms and now fighting for her life. Ms. Frieson and her sister are Black.

Ives Green. a 58-year-old runner and award-winning Special Olympics athlete, became the first person in Louisiana to die from coronavirus. He lived in a facility for people with developmental disabilities and had limited exposure to people from outside of the facility. His family is still trying to figure out how someone seemingly in great health, contracted coronavirus. Mr. Green is Black.

You may have heard of Dr. James Pruden, 71, an emergency room doctor in Paterson, N.J., who is now in critical condition after testing positive for coronavirus. He is a trained first responder who is in charge of the hospital’s emergency preparedness unit and lead the hospital through the swine flu outbreak in 2009. Dr. Pruden is now fighting for his life and he is Black.

Melanin is not vibranium and America isn’t Wakanda, even in the Marvel Universe, so why some Black people, who are often disproportionately impacted by medical conditions for a myriad of reasons, believe they are immune to coronavirus is beyond me. For those who think Idris Elba isn’t “Black, Black,” the British-born brother’s parents are from Sierra-Leone and Ghana meaning he is African in addition to being a Black Brit which makes him unequivocally “Black, Black.”

For the record, people in 19 African countries have tested positive for coronavirus and, for sure, they are “Black Black.”

To make it plain, I’m not talking about skin color, I’m talking about identity. If you are African living anywhere in the world including the continent, Black American, mixed race, biracial, Hotep, Greek, GDI, hood, bougie, religious, atheist or any category of Black, there isn’t a magical pill or pigment that’s going to stop you from getting coronavirus if you come in contact with someone who has it.

Even if you don’t think you have it, you very well could have it and knowingly or unknowingly spread the virus that may not be fatal to you but could be fatal to others. It is called being asymptomatic. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary uses “asymptomatic” in the following sentence to give people a better understanding of the meaning of the word:

“Those measures could work slowing the spread of the virus, which is also believed to be spread by asymptomatic people.”

My point is: coronavirus will kill you and other Black people, so wash your hands and stay away from others outside of your home as much as possible, especially older folks. Listen to those in power you can trust. If restaurants, gymnasiums and other businesses are closed, stay away from them. Some restaurants are still delivering and responsible gym owners are posting at-home workouts for their clientele on the web. I’ve also heard folks saying only two percent of the U.S. population will get it. For the geniuses out there, that amounts to 6 million people, which is not a small number.

As for all of the conspiracy theories, the rapid spread of coronavirus happens when your president hires a science denier as head of Health and Human Services who promptly cuts the CDC’s budget on managing infectious diseases by 80 percent and is still trying to make more cuts to said budget.

Oh, and suppressing important information and holding press conferences about coronavirus that are evasive and filled with misinformation and flat out lies. Just because your xenophobic president calls it the Chinese virus, doesn’t mean it only affects the Chinese. Oh, and there are Black Chinese people, too, but that’s another article (see Jamaica).

If you haven’t before, now is the time to practice self-care. There is no conspiracy and Black people can and are dying from this virus. Coronavirus is real and those of us who have been historically denied competent and compassionate healthcare should be the most vigilant in adhering to guidelines and mandates to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, especially to our most vulnerable populations.

Burton is a professor of film and television at Emory University.

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