In spite of an initial news report being sent out of England in February that a Cameroonian student in China had successfully fought off the new COVID-19 virus “because of his Black skin,” getting picked up and disseminated widely, and Waka Flocka Flame (a well-known southern rapper) and other hip-hop artists’ pronouncements on radio that ‘Blacks are immune to the disease;’ it is now abundantly clear that Black folk have been misled. We did not and will not get any break from this current ‘bad luck.’

According to the latest statistics, Black folks are leading the hit parade of infections and fatalities connected with the current pandemic. Immunity? Not even close.

Why? And can anything positive be done about it?

In spite of Obamacare, and other medical advances, African-Americans still perennially occupy the lowest (well, maybe not the lowest-that’s Native Americans) levels of those who have decent healthcare in the USA. African-Americans and Latinos—with jobs also dominate the lowest paying service positions in the country, daily existing ‘one missed paycheck from disaster.’ The shelter-in-place orders from many governors simply could not be obeyed by many Black folk without ushering in starvation and eviction from already overcrowded housing units.

Additionally, after years of inadequate health maintenance, Black Americans typically lead the nation in percentage of those with heart conditions, diabetes, obesity, HIV, lung cancer, etc. In a way, the COVID-19 situation is just one more piece of lead on the scales. Being Black in the U.S.A. is still a many-splendored heartache.

Finding ourselves now leading the field in COVID-19 infections and deaths in New York, New Orleans, Chicago, Milwaukee and other major cities is neither surprising nor unexpected.

And it will probably get much worse before it gets better.

No, it will not kill off Black folk from the USA, as bad as it will get. We are too deeply ingrained in the very fiber of this country. However, this virus predicament will surely leave the Black community totally exhausted and virtually defenseless to handle any other assault on its population.

Can the Black community fight back effectively? Yes, it can. The elected political leaders claiming to speak for the Black community must rise to the occasion now and make sure Black folks get more than their fair share of available resources, even if that does not include more ventilators and hospital beds. The community needs more food security support, for instance, and more accessibility to public testing for virus symptoms.

Elected leaders must make sure Obamacare is renewed and strengthened, including state acceptance of more Medicaid, wherever they live. Where politicians deny that increased access, Black voters must organize and vote them out. The time for pretty faces and smooth talkers as our political leaders has passed. Elected leaders and those vying for such jobs have to bring solid agendas to support the expansion and full funding of healthcare availabilities, or be taken out of the picture.

The era of personality politics is over. We must support and vote only for those who can bring to the Black community tangible increases in healthcare, education, business opportunities, protections against housing discrimination, etc. No more allowance for politicos who simply take money from developers and sell Black folk out.

There are November elections coming up. We must demand candidate debates that will provide the community with tangible, not pie-in-the-sky, plans to better our conditions and opportunities. We must establish and maintain, where not already present, political action associations/clubs that put pressure on candidates and elected officials to get the needed jobs done or we must vote them out. We must establish report cards on current elected officials and publish the evaluated results.

We must try harder to educate ourselves from quickly believing conspiracy theories and internet nonsense that does not help us.

We must gird our loins for battle against anything that holds us back. For those who will survive the COVID-19 virus, we must come out of this test toughened and hunting for what’s better. There will be a next time, and we must be stronger.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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