ColumnistsD Kevin McNeirEditor's ColumnOpinion

EDITOR’S COLUMN: Protests to Reopen Cities Too Soon Reflect a Denial and Ignorance of History

Americans are notoriously impatient, particularly those in power as well as those who feel that they’re members of the “privileged” class or race. For some, “wait” is tantamount to a four-letter word. In addition, Americans have become quite adept at twisting the truth — that is, lying — in order to protect their own, selfish interests. That’s right, I said it, we have become proficient at lying.

African Americans know this and history confirms it — from the Tuskegee Experiment to insidiously-crafted notions that Blacks had tails, had larger heads and much smaller brains than whites, were prone to lust after pedestal-a-fixed white women and were incapable of intellectual prowess. The ease with which the African continent was decimated, its libraries, natural resources and technologies destroyed or stolen and its former great civilizations eradicated while its people were sold into slavery, illustrate how easy humans can promote the absurd for the benefit of their own self-aggrandizement.

Said simply, Americans (and they are not alone) often bend or ignore the truth in order to promote their own desires. But now is not the time to allow those who would stoke the flames of fear to keep us from learning from the past and allowing ourselves to fall prey to the same horrific ends that have been documented in the annals of history — not with the coronavirus pandemic still leading to thousands of deaths each day and a second wave of infections predicted later this winter.

That’s why we should applaud the fortitude of leaders like Mayor Muriel Bowser and Govs. Larry Hogan and Ralph Northam here in the District, Maryland and Virginia, respectively. Unfortunately, and possibly to the detriment of hundreds of citizens, they remain among a distinct minority of state leaders who continue to stand fast on maintaining stay-at-home orders in order to prevent the deadly and inevitable spread of the coronavirus.

I urge you to read the history for the complete story — the real facts. But suffice to say, that after a powerful contingency of U.S. citizens became fed up with their businesses being shuttered and unable to take their cross-country jaunts as they’d recently begun to enjoy, they forced officials to reopen their cities and cancel orders to wear masks and to practice social distancing.

As a tale of two cities from 1918, in Philadelphia, city officials ignored warnings from infectious disease experts that the flu was already circulating in their community. Instead, they moved forward with a massive parade in support of World War I bonds that brought hundreds of thousands of people together. Within three days, thousands of people around the Philadelphia region began to die; within six months, about 16,000 people had died.

When a flu outbreak at a local barracks first spread into St. Louis, the city immediately closed schools, movie theaters and pool halls and banned all public gatherings. Within two days of the first reported cases, the city quickly moved to social isolation strategies. The result: St. Louis suffered just one-eighth of the flu fatalities that Philadelphia experienced.

This is the truth and it’s not “fake news.”

I realize it’s painful, in so many ways, to continue social distancing. I know that the coffers of many citizens have long been depleted — mine have dwindled as well. I realize that we’re all wrestling with anxiety and uncertainty and that such mental states can make following the “Pied Piper” seem like the only possible option.

But Black folks are a resilient people. We have weathered far greater storms. And somehow, we’ve survived. As my Momma used to say and sing so often, “we’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord … He’s never failed me yet.”

So, stand firm. And, don’t believe “the hype.” It could cost you something that you cannot purchase, no matter how much money you may have: your life or the lives of those you love.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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