By Glenn Ellis
You have killed over 500,000 innocent women and children; 25 of them were my friends. People are scared and overwhelmed after more than a year of “cabin fatigue.” You have been on the minds of the whole world for a year now, and you are the one thing who everyone is talking about, no matter where they are on the planet. Everyone’s talking about you, but no one is talking to you.
I thought hard and long about it and decided that based on my own life experiences of being Black, another group of living organisms that are viewed as a menace to society, I wanted to just acknowledge that there are some “good” things you are doing around the world. A man told me once that, “it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good.” Grandpapa taught us to always look for the good in people. You have done some amazingly good things, in spite of the death you bring with you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, COIVD-19, I’m not saying that Black folks are bad, and cause death the way you do; I’m just saying that we both have the same goals: to survive and to thrive. That’s what all living things do, isn’t it? Yet, we both live in a world that looks at life through the smallest of lens – their own lives. COVID-19, you’ve shown us just how disconnected we are from the world in which we live. Here we are living on a planet where, even though we don’t know exactly how many types of viruses there are, there’s over 320,000 types of viruses that can infect humans.
You have killed a half-million people in just one year and that has shocked and frightened us in the same country where one person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. Tobacco kills more than 480,000 people annually; over 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Excessive alcohol use is responsible for almost 100,000 deaths in the United States each year, or 261 deaths per day. From 1999 to 2018, over 750,000 people died from a prescription drug overdose. All of these are legal under the law and yet the spotlight is on you.
I wish we understood enough about science and biology to know that this is your planet…and we just live here. We have become so “civilized” that we are aghast with how you have the audacity to wreak such havoc on our society. That’s why folks are saying, “how dare you?” And we are supposed to think that you’re the most dangerous threat around us out of the other 320,000 types of viruses? Trust me, I get it. It’s kinda like Black folks always hearing about “Black-on-Black homicide.” Nobody seems bother to mention that, according to FBI statistics show that 80.7 percent of all of the murders of white people were committed by white people. If you didn’t know better, you’d think we were the worst people on the planet! Far from it, death and destruction on this planet are equal opportunity employers.
I have to thank you because without you, the world would still be able to continue to defend an imaginary system of health equity in this country. With the most expensive health care system in the world, thanks for showing, definitively, that even with the most expensive health care system in the world, we don’t have the ability to equitably distribute a vaccine to all citizens.
Speaking of the vaccine, you were truly brilliant in how you revealed that we have generations of folks with some of the lowest rates of health literacy rates in the world; even though we have some the best (and most expensive) institutions of higher learning. Still, the national, state, and local strategies to encourage vaccines, is to tell folks to follow the science. COVID-19, don’t they understand that you can follow what you don’t understand? What they are really saying is to follow the “personality.”
The social scientists seem to actually get the fact that you hit the Black community hardest. They are connecting the dots and seeing that it is no coincidence that Blacks have highest rates of vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy theories. Those places where your impact in under resourced and under-educated families and neighborhoods oozes in the form of high cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
You see, COVID-19 you and us Black people are both the victims of civilization. We both, while simply carrying our purpose on earth, are turned into the “villain” in our society when we react to the efforts of the nation to get rid of us. They don’t stop to think about the structural racism that created the inequitable socio-economic conditions that have perpetuated the inter-generational poverty, sickness, and crime in Black communities.
Instead, Blacks have always (just like viruses) been viewed through the societal lens that our behaviors; our very existence, are because of who we inherently are; not because of where we are, or what’s being done to us; we just can’t help ourselves and are therefore unwelcomed visitors. You’re trying to get into as many “hosts” (human bodies) as you can; Black folks are trying to maximize every opportunity to manifest our full potential in the world, to which we, like you, belong.
In closing, just want to remind you not to be mad at President Biden. He’s gotta do what he got to do. Please don’t take it personal. Besides, a 2016 study concludes that Earth is home to 1 trillion species. Mother nature will sort all of this out for all of us in the end…Catch you later (no pun intended).
Glenn Ellis, MPH is a Visiting Scholar at The National Bioethics Center at Tuskegee University and a Harvard Medical School Bioethics Fellow. Ellis is an active media contributor on Health Equity and Medical Ethics. For more good health information visit: www.glennellis.com.