My sister-in-law and her mother died this weekend from complications related to Covid-19. This virus is coming or not coming. Unless you are a total prepper, one grocery trip at the wrong time can get you. It’s a game of Russian roulette. Nothing made this more clear than losing them.
My sister-in-law was one of those Black women we stereotype. A strong, solid, capable, loving, no nonsense, Christian woman. When everything fell apart, she was the one who was the family first responder. While I am not Christian, I respect faithful people of any religion. She was one of those faithful people — what I call a real Christian. When my daughter was in a coma a few years ago, Linda was one of the faithful people who prayed her right and whole. She made sure that she was there for her in ways I, as her mother, could not be. I was grateful for that gift. It’s not so much who does it, so much that it gets done.
But, this is not really a eulogy. This is my way of grieving. My way of grieving is to say again, we’ve been talking about the impact of White Supremacy on the health of BIPOC for a really long time now. This is a refresher course. We need to be centering BIPOC in any further discussions of Covid 19, because this administration has made it abundantly clear we are not even an afterthought to them. But that, is business as usual for America. It’s just more obvious this time.
Right now, I’m seeing a lot of my White friends wondering why people aren’t taking this seriously. The only answer I can give is — in relation to the BIPOC community — White Supremacy. White Supremacy centers White people. White Supremacy makes sure that resources are directed to White people. White Supremacy allows White people to receive better medical care. White Supremacy makes White people feel secure. Every time you have not actively worked to dismantle White Supremacy, you have participated in leading up to this moment. So many, many, institutional abuses have finally been added up and are now taking their toll.
If authorities have been distrustful in the past and made no tangible effort to repair and restore a community, then, the community will no longer listen to authorities. If biological warfare is used against people, they will learn to be skeptical of your medicines and advice.
The fact that 72% of Covid deaths in Chicago are Black, while Black people make up 30% of that population shows exactly how much White Supremacy continues to kill BIPOC.
Indigenous communities were one of the first communities upon whom Europeans used biological warfare. The dissemination of blankets infected with smallpox is well known. And history repeats. Right now at Standing Rock, many people live in trailers with electric heat. The McLaughlin City Council has been turning off their power effectively putting Native people out of their homes in the midst of a health crisis.
It’s not like this is new information. This 1991 article about AIDS talks about how the medical establishment has engineered decades of mistrust. In that article — from 1991 — “Informed consent is a privileged man’s protection,” said Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Minnesota and a chief organizer of the symposium. “It is not going to work as well for someone who is poor and uneducated and for whom the researcher may have prejudice and contempt. It works best for those who are educated enough to know to demand it.”
But, lest people think we are overreacting to just The Tuskegee Experiment, there are numerous cases of medical abuse of Black people. Henrietta Lacks whose cells were used without her consent or even acknowledgement of her contribution to science. The doctors who benefitted from her unusual cells viewed her much the way White people have always viewed us, as products to be used for their own enrichment. It took 60 years for her family to receive ethical reparations.
Case in point, George Washington’s teeth were pulled from the mouths of his slaves in order to make his famous dentures. Sources disagree over whether the slaves were compensated for their teeth, but, in my opinion that is just some more White Supremacy covering up the trail of atrocity. How can a slave give consent to a body they do not own? Furthermore, George Washington was renowned for his miserliness. So do you think they got what those teeth were worth?
How about Dr. Marion Sims experimenting on enslaved Black Women? He rented enslaved Black women and performed surgery on their vaginas using no anesthesia or painkillers. He did this in front of an audience. He believed something medical professionals believe to this day, that Black women feel less pain and therefore did not need pain relief.
More recently, the nation was “shocked” that mortality rates for Black women were so high. “In recent years, as high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. have alarmed researchers, one statistic has been especially concerning. According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health.”
Let’s add testing of a drug most scientists believe is not that helpful on people in Detroit, a city with a large Black population. The trial will consist of healthcare workers and first responders. According to Detroit Future City, “Nearly 80% of middle-class households in Detroit are headed by African Americans, some 51,400 households.” 1 in 10/14 Black men have G6PD deficiency. G6PD is an enzyme, which is a type of protein.Hydroxychloroquine may cause red blood cells to rupture (break open) in people with low levels of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). Routine G6PD deficiencies screening are not performed. Sounds a little like a biological version of Tulsa, doesn’t it?
BIPOC are taking this seriously because White Supremacy has trained us to know that we are the most disposable. So, if you are wondering why many of us aren’t wearing masks, ask yourself what you did for any of the Black people executed by police? What are you doing to ensure that this does not become a modern genocide of the “disposable people” — Blacks, Latines, Queer and those who are considered “irredeemably poor”? The data is in, BIPOC are disproportionately affected by this pandemic.
White Supremacy is the culprit. Direct your questions to the right people and seek accountability. We are experiencing a great opportunity for magnificent change. But, first we must understand and practice diversity. This is not affecting everyone the same way.