Local BusinessStacy M. Brown

Why Black Residents in D.C. Fear Reopening the Economy

In the furor to reopen governments and protests around the country — mostly by whites who support President Trump — African Americans have increasingly expressed fear for their safety.

Many said they feel unprotected, particularly as police shootings of African Americans have not ceased since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Some have even pointed to the case of Ahmaud Arbery, who was gunned down in Georgia by a former police officer and his son while jogging.

NBC News noted that, for many Black Americans, the general perception is that the crowds of white protesters are steeped in racism, white supremacy and anti-Black sentiments. Thusly, many Black Americans would feel unwelcome — and perhaps afraid — given the presence of Confederate flags, swastikas and hangman’s nooses.

“This is identity politics, and this is not COVID-19 as an actual issue,” Dr. Samuel K. Roberts, director of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African American Studies and an epidemiologist, told NBC News. “First of all, if you look at who these people are, I don’t know many Black folks of any political stripe that would want to be in that crowd.”

“These are the same people who called Obama all sorts of names, racist epithets, a lot of them overlap with the Tea Party, which was a very racially charged movement,” Roberts said. “Nothing about this movement is really Black-friendly.

“This is very much an identity politics issue, let’s be clear about that, and I say that because people on the right, and a lot of people in the middle-of-the-line Democratic Party, talk about identity politics and it’s just code for women and people of color,” he said. “White people have actual issues, while women and people of color have identity politics.”

In the District’s Ward 8, Jabril Campbell, Tyrell Washington, and Benny Pierce said while demonstrations haven’t occurred in D.C., they’re each leery that white supremacy attitudes will run amok.

“It’s hard to wear a mask even though we know our safety depends upon it,” said Campbell, 23. “Everybody wants to talk about reopening the government, reopening states. They’re protesting. White people are protesting, and they’re mainly white supremacists, so you know their anger is eventually going to spill over even when things do open back up because they’re going to find that things aren’t the same. And, you know, they’re going to turn their anger against [African Americans].”

Washington, 28, called the protests the “most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.” He admitted that “they are also scary.”

“You got people in places like the Michigan capitol building holding guns and rifles and the police are just standing there,” Washington said. “They are reminding the police, and the rest of the country that this nation belongs to them and President Trump has empowered them to take control, basically.

“When the stay-at-home orders are totally lifted, you know they’ll be even more empowered, and that does mean we can expect more racial stuff,” he said.

Pierce, 24, said he’s strongly considering applying for employment that allows him to work full-time at home.

“I don’t even want to go to the grocery store, and that has nothing to do with the coronavirus anymore,” Pierce said. “I figure if I work from home, I have less chance of being a victim of some white person gone wild. I can order from Instacart and live my life at home alive instead of coming home from a company office and shot for no reason at all.”

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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One Comment

  1. I am very heart broken to read about these young brothers’ views on why they fear reopening of the D.C. and the economy in general. It is unfortunate that they feel so helpless, hopeless and afraid in the year 2020. Is this crisis going to turn back the hands of time? I hope not, we need to reset our agendas and prepare for a new normal but not revisit the 60’s. We are a people of resilience, strength and fortitude; put your trust and faith in GOD, he will see us through. Peace and Love!

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