Saturday, May 16, 2020

Black community hit hard by pandemic may not be all about racism

Kudos to this black American journalist who calls into question some of the social norms that some black people are continuing to pursue during a time when they need to be socially distancing, both for their own health and for the common good.
Black people do seem to have been disproportionately hit by the COVID-19 virus,  ut it is not immediately clear whether this is because of underlying poverty, poor general health, or out-and-out racism. Some have argued that black people are not getting the message about hand-washing and social distancing, but that seems somewhat disingenuous to me (surely, black people have access to the same media as everyone else, and can read the same warnings). Others have argued that a black person wearing a mask risks stereotyping as a criminal, which may or may not be true in some places.
But rarely, if ever, do you see a black person "breaking ranks" and suggesting that there is some deliberate flouting of rules going on within the black community in particular, from hanging in groups on street corners and a marked absence of face masks to out-and-out block parties with zero social distancing. It is quite possible that a macho culture and toxic masculinity is at least contributing to the problem, although it is hard to know how much of an effect is involved.
No-one is saying that black people are, as a race, worse at dealing with the precautions and privations needed to beat the coronavirus - I could easily single out other subsections of society like, anecdotally, white teenage girls, who apparently see their own teen friendships as more important than their own health or that of others they may infect. But neither are they blameless victims, or martyrs to the scourge of racism.
Kudos to Mr. Blake for having the guts to, as he puts it, "violate one of the Ten Commandments of Blackness: Thou shalt not criticize your own people in the presence of white folks". And let's not jump to conclusions and invoke the "R word" at any opportunity, but let's keep an open mind and try to figure out why this is happening a bit more scientifically. As one black political commentator puts it, in relation to this same issue, "We can't blame everything on race. Some things are just common sense."

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