Can We Talk

Hello, this is Coffee Talk

And I’m your host Karyn DeShields.

So listen, in Michigan and Louisiana, the number of Black people diagnosed with COVID-19 is wildly disproportionate to our population. We represent 40% of all Michigan cases, with over 7,000 cases in Wayne County, where my hometown of Detroit is situated. 70% of Louisiana cases with 4,000 in Orleans county where New Orleans is located. So folks are popping off about how Black people are responding and not complying with government orders. But there is a lot of background there.

Black people have a storied history in America. You know it, I won’t go into it from Jamestown to today… but our relationship with the government is weakened by our VERY REAL experiences. The government told us we were free people after the Civil War… the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1963, yet it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that Union General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas, bringing news to the town that the Civil War had ended and that all slaves were free. I could go on and on. But let’s not act like because the government or its figure heads say something that it’s gospel, truthful, or humane. Just a few months ago the COVID virus was similar to the flu; the numbers would go down in April because it’s warmer; and anyone who needed a test could get it. All lies. We are told if we obey the law and are law abiding we will be protected by police, yet Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, and Sandra Bland.

So we, meaning Black People, have to fix the messaging and re-deliver it.

Here’s the rub. If a Black man in a hoodie is a thug, a Black man in a red or blue bandana tied around his face may be seen as a gang member… that’s not far off. If a Black man driving is a threat, then a Black man in a face mask who you cannot identify, looks like a thief and might be considered one. Do we really believe that these brothas want to mask up or trust the repercussions of being out in public looking like a ninja assassin… hell naw. “Mask on. Fuck it, mask off!” But a mask strapped around your face is much better than a ventilator strapped around your face. So it’s necessary… but we should understand why it might not particularly be trusted.

As far as staying inside. No one should be having basketball games, parties, BBQs, none of that. But again, many people in the Black community work in the service industry, a lot of whose jobs are considered essential. We have to grocery shop. We should be taking walks and staying active. Some of us can’t afford to put two weeks worth of groceries in the house at one time. Others of us need to take public transportation to get to our destinations. Still very many of us were still attending events (social, professional, community) well into March, because no national plan of action was put into place by the Pandemic Response Team… cuz your President got rid of them to give his son-in-law a job. A lot of Black people who are middle class belong to social, cultural, community-based, and professional groups for support and networking not available to us otherwise. Those events were likely hotbeds for spreading the virus. You have to understand who and why we are FIRST, before you judge. We have to not lose sight of who and why we are to remember why we might be a little less willing to blindly obey government.

So let’s share our very real experiences with COVID-19, so people are aware of how real, prevalent, and important it is to follow CDC recommendations. Let’s dispel rumors and misinformation. Let’s share how we are staying healthy, boosting our immunity, staying active, staying positive, keeping our spaces disinfected, and washing our hands. There are many people making masks, I know a few myself. Wearing one glove to grasp door handles and touch high traffic surfaces while you are out is smart. Cleaning your home, washing your hands immediately when you enter your home, using Lysol on items from outdoors, and just overall heeding the dangers and transmission of this virus is smart. But we must also be understanding and compassionate.

This is unlike anything any of us have experienced. Or children are out of school, many of us are working from home or not working at all, it’s stressful, it’s weird AF, and it’s real life. It represents the beginning of the rest of our lives, as things will never be the same. Let’s help each other embrace our current norms and focus on being healthy enough to adjust to our new normal when this pandemic is over.

Now talk amongst yourselves…