Jamala Rogers


I understand why a segment of the African-American population believes that slow resources to our community and the drive to push people back to work are rooted in the fact that black folks make up a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. People of color saw how the widespread publicity of who was being negatively impacted led to the rise of white people forcing government officials to open up society well before informed experts said we should. After all, their white rights are being infringed upon—and black people are disposable.

If the first 13 St. Louis COVID deaths were white people, alarms would have sounded and emergency strategies put in place. We know this because there’s an abundance of data showing the graphic racial disparities in medical treatments and health outcomes. Who gets access to quality care is no longer a mystery.

Any serious coronavirus plan of action should have targeted known vulnerable populations like poor black and brown communities and jail and prison populations. Robust testing plans are woefully inadequate in these areas. Testing gives you data, and data drives the plan.

I see some crowds of black folks not practicing safety measures, like wearing protective masks and social distancing. I feel like jumping through the TV and shaking them to the reality of Rona, as the virus has been nicknamed in the ‘hood. They’re not telling anyone to do as they do.

Then I see the angry, defiant white folks who are carrying out Trumpism and pushing their individualistic agenda on everyone else. They are tired of being in the house. They want to go back to work. They won’t be told to wear a mask. They, they, they.

Missouri and most other states are lifting their stay-at-home orders. This smacks in the face of advice by health experts who say we must use expanded testing, tracking contacts of infected people, improved treatment options and vaccine development as important factors to consider.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott opened up earlier than other states, ignoring his own benchmarks as well those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has recommended documenting a 14-day decline in cases. The state confirmed thousands of new cases in coronavirus cases and fatalities since reopening just a few weeks ago.

Texas Republicans must be stuck on stupid. In lockstep with the White House’s view that some will have to die so that the stock market can live, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick suggested that elder citizens should be willing to expose themselves to COVID-19 for the sake of the economy. 

Opening Up America Again has boiled down to opening up the economy regardless of the risks to workers and their families. And if these happen to be black and brown people, so be it.

The U.S. is months into this pandemic, and still there is no national coordinated plan. This country mourns 93,000-plus dead as of May 21 and is barreling towards two million cases. Opening up prematurely and forcing workers into unsafe conditions is sure to increase cases and prolong any genuine efforts to put the virus in check.

Little leadership is being given to one of the most daunting crises facing our generation. Let’s rely on our common sense and humane sensibilities. Those of us who believe in the right to live must stitch together a plan to survive a pandemic. We must survive COVID-19 and Trump. 

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