The COVID-19 pandemic is changing our view of life in so many ways that it is almost hard to keep up. But this we must do in order to come out of this situation whole. One of the elements of our society that we were somewhat aware of has become a glaring reality in another sense; the digital divide.
Usually, in the past, when people spoke about the digital divide, they were referring to the situation wherein African Americans, and particularly African American youth, did not have access to computers. This was seen as a distinct inconvenience and a hindrance to academic success. To a certain extent, this problem has been remedied by school systems. Many of them now have computer labs, so students who did not have access to computers at home are now able to use them at school.
A new kind of digital divide has been revealed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it also involves African American youth.
Recently, in a city that enacted a Shelter-in-Place edict, African American youth were caught attending a huge party. A video of the event went viral and it generated a firestorm of controversy.
Most of the people in attendance were not actually “youth” per se; they were young adults. The host of the party was 26 years old. As it turns out, his mother was a first responder who was on her job at the time, and she had no knowledge of the party. According to the host, the party was being given in honor of two friends who had lost their lives due to gun violence.
The event attracted an overflow crowd and the majority of the attendees were not wearing masks. The venue was so packed that the six-feet distancing rule was an impossibility. Neighborhood onlookers were shocked and perturbed, some so much so that they called the police, who broke up the party and levied a fine against the owner of the house, the host’s mother. The mom knew nothing about the party because her son had disabled the alarm/surveillance system so that she would not know what was happening. Unfortunately, she found out the hard way.
The controversy was so extreme that the young man was interviewed by the media. When the seriousness of the issue was shared with him, he said he had no idea that the COVID-19 pandemic was as serious as it was and that African Americans were disproportionately affected by it. He said that he didn’t watch the news!
He eventually apologized and said that he hadn’t really processed why social distancing was so important and said that he doesn’t follow the news. He said that his crowd, his friends that were around his age, didn’t have the pandemic as their main focus. He said that their focus was gun violence, and that’s what is touching him and his crowd.
Some good has come out of the situation. A local hospital is going to provide free COVID-19 testing for those who attended the party. This is good news. Hopefully, the message will be brought home to them about the seriousness of the pandemic and encourage them to comply with social distancing mandates.
This situation is not peculiar to one particular geographic location; it has become apparent that a lot of young people are totally out of touch with what happens in the mainstream. As the young man said, he does not watch the news and that’s why he was unaware of the broader picture. This claim, however, is hard to believe since his mom was a first responder working a 24-hour shift the night of the party. But it is not hard to believe that he did not really understand the importance of compliance and that it was really a life or death matter.
This new digital divide, therefore, can be seen by the fact that our young people are not watching MSNBC, CNN, ABC, or any other mainstream news outlet. They are simply out of touch.
They do have their own online networks, however. They are on Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, Snapchat, Vine, Tinder, Tumblr, Wanelo, and Facebook, among others. Whatever can be gleaned from these platforms can only be cursory at best; you will get no extended news reports on them. Because of this, responsible older adults should endeavor to do whatever they can to try and reach this elusive demographic that has seemingly tuned in to their own outlets and dropped out! As demonstrated by the party goers, the lack of information can be a life or death matter. A Luta Continua.