COVID-19 presents yet another case of Black America’s distrust in government institutions. Even though Black people reportedly represent the highest number of U.S. citizens to contract the deadly virus and the highest number who die from it for many reasons, they are also among the most astounding number by race that refuses to take the life-saving vaccine.
This is of no surprise to Black doctors or legislators. For months, they tried to prepare for the hard sell required to get the message into the heads and the vaccines into Black people’s arms. The horrible truth about the men who died in the Tuskegee experiment or Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were used for research without her consent, are commonly known among Black people. Why trust institutions responsible for denying them equal and affordable access to healthcare that also allows them to suffer and die more from preventable and curable diseases?
Yet, the resistance by Black people manifests the depth of their suspicions about government-related programs and policies. When banks were allowed to sell sub-prime loans and engage in other predatory lending practices, Blacks were the victims; and they were so distrustful that they resisted programs aimed to help. Consequently, the impact of the housing crisis lead to a profound Black loss of wealth and the impact continues. With the COVID-19 moratorium on rental and utility payments, again, Black people represent the highest number of potential victims of evictions and utility shut-offs, yet they are not responding to programs that offer help.
When Black people don’t get a quick and positive response for aid, they most often decide it’s not meant for them. They are painfully accustomed to being discriminated against and treated unfairly. And, in many cases, their feelings are spot on. But now is not the time to distrust resources aimed at helping every American including housing and utility assistance programs, and a vaccine that save lives, including Black lives.