We love our conspiracy theories. Some black folks are saying the coronavirus hullabaloo is designed to scare us into staying home on Election Day during a crucial electoral season.
“Black people can’t get the coronavirus.”
It’s a dangerous fantasy.
The roots are cultural. African Americans possess an abiding distrust of the medical world. We will never forget Tuskegee Syphilis Study. For 40 years starting in 1932, doctors in the South secretly withheld treatment from black men who had been infected with a sexually transmitted disease so they could monitor and study the nightmarish toll of the disease.
Many of us believe our higher rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke and obesity are the product of a discriminatory medical system.
We are highly suspicious of medical information and advice conveyed by the ruling classes. If they tell us it’s “X,” then it must be “Y.”
Embracing this coronavirus canard may be strangely comforting. For centuries, African Americans have been told we are inferior. It’s a comforting notion that our blackness might make us invincible in a pandemic, to believe that blackness is stronger, mightier, immune to this 21st century pandemic.
We love myths that make us feel superior. Like the one that says black people don’t commit suicide. That we are not serial killers.
Embracing this myth could kill us.
Dr. Jennifer Caudle has been on a one-doctor, one-woman crusade to educate us about the COVID-19.
She specializes in Family Medicine and is an associate professor at the Rowan University-School of Osteopathic Medicine in New Jersey. She regularly appears on cable networks and other news outlets offering common-sense medical advice.
In a recent YouTube video, Dr. Caudle attempts to snuff out the myth.
“Guys, I’m black,” she declares to the audience.
“Many of you might be black,” she continues. “There is no evidence to say that black people cannot get coronavirus. This is a myth. Anyone can get coronavirus.”
As of Friday, there were 146 people confirmed to have the virus in Africa, according to data from the World Health Organization. Egypt had 67 cases, most reportedly linked to a Nile cruise ship traveling from Aswan to Luxor. Algeria reports 25 cases; Senegal, 10. Sunday night, South Africa reported it has 61 cases. On Sunday, the Associated Press reported cases in 25 African nations.
You know the scariest thing about the notion that black folks are immune to COVID-19? We are most vulnerable to it.
Certain groups “are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness,” according to the Centers for Disease Control’s website.
That includes “older adults” and people with “serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.”
African Americans typically suffer — and die from — those maladies at higher rates than others.
Let’s kill the myth.
Article Originally appeared in Chicago Sun Times