By Vernon A. Williams
Just because several states are eager to endanger the lives of Black Americans with ill-conceived, “canary-in-a-coal mine” tests of how safe it is to ease back from isolation, doesn’t mean that Blacks have to take the lethal bait.
This is serious business. Between now and the first of May, there should be a massive, national social media campaign targeting African Americans in the states that are ready to reopen. The message should say something akin to: “Don’t drink the Kool Aid.”
That’s not an attempt at humor. Far from it. It is a throwback to one of the most nightmarish episodes in Black history when people of color were led to Guyana by an irreverent charlatan named Jim Jones who insisted that he was God reincarnate. He robbed them of their freedom, their dignity and eventually their lives.
The weapon of choice for the Jonestown mass murder/suicides of more than 800–mostly Black men, women and children was a cup of the powdered soft drink – laced with cyanide.
The means of destruction may not be quite as blatant next week but the results could be the same – a horrible loss of lives in the African American community.
The governor of Georgia didn’t even bother to have a conversation with Atlanta’s Black mayor before imposing his order to reopen workout facilities, barber shops, beauty salons and other heavily-trafficked retail and service operations. But while he pronounces intentions to ignore medical wisdom, it does not mean that Black folk must mindlessly follow his lead. Conversely, they should be massively defiant and make his plan backfire.
Most of the COVID-19 news of the past two weeks has focused on the disproportionate number of cases reported among Americans of color. The mortality rate of African Americans continues to spiral. And in the infinite wisdom of those in government who totally lack moral authority or the requisite empathy needed to decry that reality, the move is to put those most vulnerable at greater risk.
CNN newsman Van Jones minced no words saying the decision to open these Southern states so soon without the kind of testing the medical community urges is a “death sentence for communities of color.”
Easing stay-at-home restrictions in states that have not even begun to flatten the curve of infection or mortality is tantamount, in the minds of some, to genocide.
Black and all caring citizens at every level should band together to reject this disaster waiting to happen. From the board rooms to the pews, from the retail establishments to celebrity circles, the social media outcry to defy these orders should be deafening.
If not, an already horrendous moment in history may earn the dubious distinction of opening another chapter of human devastation in tens of thousands of lives lost. The worst of it is, many Blacks are going to be complicit in their own destruction if they fail to resist the temptation to get back out as though the coronavirus threat has subsided.
The restlessness and uncertainty is, to some extent, understandable. We struggle to understand how we got to this point in time, even how to define where we are at this unprecedented place. Beyond the here and now is the most complex query – where do we go from here?
The ominous void of knowledgeable and moral leadership in the U.S. is equally perturbing for those leaning heavily on science as well as those who frame their pandemic experience in a more spiritual context. Grave apprehension, confusion and anxiety is unavoidable. The most that a person can hope for is that it does not consume them.
That troubling condition worsens with every disjointed and dishonest press conference from those who purport to be in control. For too many Americans, the dilemma is that the more you listen, the less you know.
The root of that quandary is the frustrating range of opinions ventured by too many who should not receive nearly as much television time as they are permitted. Misinformation is at the root of a decision of a handful of misguided governors prematurely preparing to declare “Mission Accomplished” and resume business as usual.
That is a deadly dangerous proposition that threatens both those guilty of that reckless impatience and much more conservative thinkers whose paths they inevitably cross. As a result, sadly everyone is at greater risk in a climate of chaotic irresponsibility.
Use your social media, call around the country, urge your church to get involved, do whatever it takes to send out the warning – no matter how close or far away you are from the affected states. Urge Black Americans to “just say no” when these doors are flung open far too soon. It’s literally a matter of life and death.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].