I’m aware of the Trump administration’s inept management of the COVID-19 national strategy, as well as the general lack of testing within the African-American community. These things, undoubtedly, put the black community at a higher risk for contracting the virus, exacerbated by underlying health factors within our community such as hypertension and diabetes.
But I’m also painfully aware of what has been, unfortunately, an abysmal lack of information, awareness and precaution among my people as it pertains to this pandemic.
Despite warnings of “Stay at Home,” “Shelter in Place” and instructions to practice social distancing – which are omnipresent in newspapers, social media, television, billboards and elsewhere – too many black folks are visibly ignoring the warnings.
I’ve personally witnessed young blacks in East St. Louis, with bars, nightclubs and casinos now closed, resorting to public gatherings at parks, gas station lots, as well as coordinating house parties and impromptu barbeques with friends.
At these gatherings, I’ve noticed a visible absence of social distancing, a lack of face masks and an abundance of handshakes, hugs and interaction as if they were oblivious to the contagious nature of the virus.
On another occasion I drove past a popular takeout Chop Suey joint in ESL and witnessed no fewer than 15 cars parked around the establishment, with a packed lobby, in which the only safe individuals were the Asian owners and cooks behind their bullet-proof glass barrier.
And the excessive black deaths are reflective of this lack of information in Illinois, with 60 percent of the coronavirus fatalities in Chicago being African Americans, consistent with the national trend.
Much of this indifference is rooted in popular mythology within the black community, at the onset of the pandemic, that blacks were, somehow, immune from the coronavirus. But when black NBA players and celebrities such as Idris Elba and Babyface were infected, it brought belated awareness of the disease, which had already spread.
So, I ask my people, young and old: is it worth it to potentially die because you can’t temporarily kick it, congregate, get a haircut or a manicure, or simply stay 6 feet apart? Because your inability to stay 6 feet apart may very well put you 6 feet under. And the morticians will be more than willing to accommodate you with a final hair, makeup and manicure appointment.
Black folks should already know how this society devalues them. This is about doing the things that we can do, like washing our hands, eating healthier foods, exercising, wearing masks, practicing social distancing and staying home, to the degree that we can, and not infecting others. Be wise and be safe and we will get through this together.
Governor J.B. Pritzker, state Senator Christopher Belt, state Representative Latoya Greenwood, and ESL Mayor Robert Eastern III have worked to provide a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at the Windsor Health Center in ESL. Pre-screening and appointments may be made by calling 618-646-2596.