When White America Gets a Cold

by Walter Harris Garvin

“There’s an old saying in some African American communities that is often applied to the broad-stroke disparity of [the] nation’s economy: when white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia. Loosely translated, this clichéd quip means a downturn in the economy might pose hardships for some white Americans, but it’s deadly for those black Americans who are already mired at the bottom of economic ladder.” –
Sam Fullwood, Jan. 28th 2015

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a dolt like Donald Trump to figure out what’s likely to happen to the Black Community writ large when a Pandemic hits White America. Past is prologue.
As reported in the New York Times2013 Urban Institute study found that:
“As of 2010, white families, on average, earned about $2 for every $1 that black and Hispanic families earned, a ratio that has remained roughly constant for the last 30 years. But when it comes to wealth — as measured by assets, like cash savings, homes and retirement accounts, minus debts, like mortgages and credit card balances — white families have far outpaced black and Hispanic ones. Before the recession, non-Hispanic white families, on average, were about four times as wealthy as nonwhite families, according to the Urban Institute’s analysis of Federal Reserve data. By 2010, whites were about six times as wealthy.
The dollar value of that gap has grown, as well. By the most recent data, the average white family had about $632,000 in wealth, versus $98,000 for black families and $110,000 for Hispanic families.”
The economic devastation for African Americans and other non-“whites” brought on by this Pandemic aren’t being fully addressed.

So we get these pronouncements from the White House Briefing Room by Fauci, Birx and Agent Orange to social distance, work from home. Working from home is a luxury that most working class, blue collar and service workers (black folks and other POC are clustered here) don’t have that option. Their jobs which require face-to-face interactions are shut down for the duration. Or if they fall into that “essential” category must put themselves in harm’s way and place their families at risk.

Jason Hargrove, a public bus driver in Detroit, posted, in late March, a live Facebook video about a woman coughing on his bus several times without covering her mouth. “ ‘That lets me know that some folks don’t care,” he said, in an emotional live stream. “You all need to take this shit seriously. There’s folks dying out here.’ ” Two weeks later Jason was dead from Coronavirus. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Answering in the affirmative should not only be each other’s personal responsibility, but must also extend to public policy. Governing “in the public interest” is self interest. We are literally all in this COVID-19 boat together.

Jason’s Facebook Video
The reasons for the systemic disparities in both health and economic outcomes related to the COVID-19 Pandemic are illustrated in stark relief by Eduardo Porter  in the most recent edition of the New York Times Newsletter Race/Related.
The post is reprinted here in its entirety.

Cloistered in my Brooklyn quarantine, I’ve probably been wondering about some of the same things you have: How come the United States only has 2.4 intensive care beds per 1,000 people, about one-third the number in South Korea? Why is American unemployment insurance so stingy? And critically, how can it be that one in 10 people in the richest country in the history of the world must face the worst epidemic in 100 years without access to health care?

The reason, in my view, is the same one that explains why the United States suffers the highest rate of infant mortality among advanced countries, why our poverty is higher and why our suicide rates are off the charts. In the United States, people are expected to survive on their own. Those who cannot, are often left to sink.

I just wrote a book about this. I called itAmerican Poison.”

In the book I argue that the reason behind America’s decision to let so many people keep sinking is because the people who are sinking are often black and brown. And that when white America — the part of America that has the most political power — has been asked to show empathy across racial lines, it has usually refused.

People of color were denied access to many of the benefits provided by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. If they had been given access, Southern Democrats wouldn’t have voted for it. When Lyndon B. Johnson opened America’s welfare state to African-Americans and other minorities 30 years later, the political consensus that had set America down the path of social democracy soon collapsed.

If the safety net had to be shared with people of color, many white Americans decided they would rather not have one at all.

Since then, the public debate over welfare has been clouded by racist stereotypes about corrupt, undeserving “welfare queens” who take money from hardworking white taxpayers. The cruel irony is that the inability to extend empathy across racial lines has harmed white Americans, too. Much of white America, the part addled by opioids, ravaged by suicide, despairing of a future, is also a victim of this poisonous way of thinking.

Maybe the coronavirus outbreak will shock us into understanding just how much damage racial hostility — contempt, bigotry, mistrust, fear — has inflicted upon American society. Big crises, I’m told, often bring people together. But the challenge is hardly trivial. For starters, we must build an understanding of what it is to be American that includes everyone.

Wake Up Everybody
No More Sleeping in Bed
No More Backward Thinking
Time for Thinking Ahead…

Walter Harris Gavin is an Interculturalist writer, producer and author of the novel, The Autobiography of Obsidian Dumar

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