Dangerous things start like Joke.
There are lots of jokes about the killer Covid-19 especially in Nigeria and other African communities including the African Americans. The truth is that there have been about 185,000 confirmed cases and 7,300 deaths globally, the vast majority in China and Italy. In the United States, there have been about 4,600 confirmed cases and 85 deaths.
As at 17th March 2020 there is about 185,000 confirmed cases and 7,300 deaths globally, the vast majority in China and Italy. In the United States, there have been about 4,600 confirmed cases and 85 deaths.
Elijah C Watson write about this in a long article, he writes that everyone is susceptible to been infected and even killed, read him “I wish it were the case but that blacks cannot not be infected, unfortunately, it’s not. Initially, this idea started off as a joke, likely through a report that came on March 1 about the low Coronavirus rate in Africa. Although cases have been reported in 11 countries since that initial report — it appears Egypt has been hit the worst by the virus with 59 cases — Africa’s rate still remains low. Searching “Coronavirus Black People” on Twitter will show how the jokes have persisted throughout the month, with the tweets mocking our over-reliance on ginger ale to combat illness, highlighting how Black people have given the virus more cool and less abrasive-sounding nicknames (“The Rona,” “The Roni”), and acknowledging that no one Black had tested positive for the virus yet.
Well, turns out that last month a Black man from Cameroon named Kem Senou Pavel Daryl had contracted the virus while living in the Chinese city of Jingzhou. The 21-year-old student became the first African person known to be infected with the deadly coronavirus, and the first to recover from it. He was treated with antibiotics and drugs normally used to treat HIV patients and was put in isolation for 13 days in a local Chinese hospital.
A story that should’ve ended there ultimately became the source for fake news, as two websites, in particular, changed Daryl’s story and spread harmful misinformation in the process. First, there was the African Daily Mail, who published the story “The black African student escaped coronavirus” on February 13. (It has since been deleted.) The report included the claim that “Chinese doctors have confirmed that he remained alive because he has black skin, the antibodies of a black are 3 times strong, powerful, and resistant as that of a white.” After that, came a report from CityScrollz, who published the story “Chinese Doctors Confirmed African Blood Genetic Composition Resist Coronavirus After Student Cured” on February 14. (It has since been deleted.) The story includes false reporting throughout, including the notion that Chinese doctors said Daryl “stayed alive because of his blood genetic composition which is mainly found in the genetic composition of sub-Saharan Africans.” The report also includes the same claim of Black skin having stronger antibodies than white skin that appeared in the Daily Mail‘s report.
Then came another misleading report from The Zambian Observer, who published the story “Chinese Doctor Says African Skin Resists Coronavirus” on February 16. The Observer report copies CityScrollz’s report word for word, with the only change being its headline. The report is still available to read on the website.
Both stories have since been proven to be false. On February 15, the global news agency AFP spoke with Professor Amadou Alpha Sall — director of the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal, a biomedical research center that is currently overseeing suspected cases of the coronavirus in Africa — to fact check if Black people are more resistant to the coronavirus.
Sall said that the claim is “false information,” and that “There’s no scientific evidence to support this rumor.”
Still, the idea that Black people are resistant to the virus managed to circulate throughout social media, appearing on personal Facebook profile pages of very influential people.
Alongside the AFP, Snopes has also confirmed that the claims are false.
Now that people like Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell have tested positive for the coronavirus, it should go without saying that Black people aren’t immune or more resistant to the virus. Africans take care of yourself and, please, wash your damn hands (word to Aretha Franklin).
Dr Jennifer Cause made a video on this 5 Things you shouldn’t believe about Corona Virus
Corona Virus in African
But this threat is real and could have deadly implications. So keep washing your hands and taking other steps to reduce your risk.
However, the only race-based reports about the coronavirus have been about people ignorantly targeting Asians for hate crimes, presumably based on the racist premise that they’re somehow responsible for the virus being in America
Let us quickly learn from what history have to offer:
The Yellow Fever outbreak
The 18th-century yellow fever outbreak in the Americas is instructive here. In the 1740s, yellow fever had overtaken coastal port cities such as Charleston, South Carolina, driving people into delirium, endless vomiting, hemorrhaging, and eventually death. The physician John Lining recorded his observations about the disease in Charleston after inspecting slave ships and their cargo —including captive Africans — finding that it was almost exclusively white people who were succumbing to the disease. These observations helped reinforce already-stirring beliefs that Africans had some kind of supernatural inoculation to some of the deadliest diseases floating along the American coast.
Lining’s medical briefs became the reference manuals for another physician, Dr. Benjamin Rush, when in 1793 a yellow fever outbreak took hold of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which at the time was the nation’s capital. Close to 20,000 people — half of the population — fled Philly that year, while many African Americans actually stayed in the city at the request of Rush, who wanted to train them to nurse, care-take, and dig graves for the thousands of people dying of yellow fever.
Rush was operating on the belief that black people were immune to the disease, and black Philadelphians believed him when he told them that they were. Rush not only was an outspoken abolitionist, but also friend of the black clergymen Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, founders of the African Methodist Episcopal church, and two of the most influential African Americans of the time.
Jones and Allen helped convince black people to stay behind to assist Rush, telling their congregations that it was their Christian duty to help care for the lives of white Philadelphians. But Rush was wrong. Many of the African Americans in his medical camp contracted the disease. Hundreds of them died. Allen became afflicted and almost died himself. While Rush was a highly respected doctor — the American Psychiatric Association would later title him the “father of American psychiatry” — he was relying on faulty claims about race and health conditions that proved fatally wrong. The Philadelphia massacre became an abject lesson in what happens when race gets bandied about amidst the rages of a major health maelstrom.
As Dr. Rana Hogarth wrote in her book Medicalizing Blackness about the 1793 yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia: “The idea of innate black immunity placed an undue burden on the city’s black inhabitants. For those black people who did stay behind to help, it meant buying into a belief that at its core defined their bodies as being distinctive and unequal to whites.”
This is why Hogarth bristles a little every time she sees memes fly by on Twitter or Facebook pointing out fewer documented cases of coronavirus in Africa, or fewer deaths of African Americans, as indications that black people are somehow impervious to the disease. Such statements, whether made literally or comically, are rooted in racist beliefs that hearken back to the 18th-century yellow fever disaster that almost decimated black Philadelphia.
“I can understand the idea of saying black people as a group has suffered so much, particularly if we look at medical history, that we’re going to flip the script,” said Hogarth. “But let’s just pump the brakes on this because there were very real moments in history where African Americans were believed to be immune or were peculiar in some way, and it wasn’t seen as a bonus. It was actually seen as, ‘OK, now you have to stay behind and put your lives at risk because we just assume you won’t get this,’ and that’s the part where I kind of pause and say, OK, this is not good.”
Medical theories about black immunity persisted after the Philadelphia yellow fever outbreak, refortifying political and economic justifications for keeping Africans enslaved. The thought was that black people are best suited for chattel labor because of their ability to fight off attacks on their health, even though the Philadelphia case disproved that. Some medical authorities attempted seemingly savvier takes on black immunity, adding that this superpower was linked not just to race, but to proximity to certain geographic locations and climates, mainly in the tropics. Those takes ended up as part of the Confederate South’s arguments for preserving its plantation and slave-based economy.
The climate-based argument was that certain deadly diseases couldn’t survive in warmer temperatures, which happens to be the same argument that a cruise ship line made recently about coronavirus, to convince people to keep booking trips with them. As the Miami New Times reported on March 10, Norwegian Cruises ordered sales workers to give customers scripted lines such as: “The coronavirus can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise,” and, “Scientists and medical professionals have confirmed that the warm weather of the spring will be the end of the coronavirus.”
There is no scientific evidence that coronavirus is vulnerable at any temperature, just like the claims of earlier centuries that diseases like yellow fever can’t survive in tropical conditions or in tropical people were either overblown or flat-out false. The only thing that inoculated a person from yellow fever back then, says Hogarth, was actually contracting the disease and being lucky enough to survive. Since yellow fever originated in mosquitos native to West Africa, the black-immunity truthers of the time didn’t take into account how many Africans may have died from the disease in their native lands. Today, almost all cases of yellow fever (90%) occur in the tropical areas of Africa and South America.
Beyond climate and geography, ideas about race and health powers continued to flourish throughout the 18th century among white medical professionals, taking as gospel declarations that black skin was thicker than white skin, which emboldened doctors to experiment on black bodies. One major medical idea percolating back then was that black people feel less pain and suffering than other races — an idea that became the underpinning for the surgical experimentations that Dr. James Marion Sims performed on black women in his quest to perfect procedures for fixing incontinence and reproductive problems. Today he is considered the “father of gynecology,” though monuments of his likeness have recently been taken down in recent years.
For Hogarth, the way race was treated in health matters back then informs how we talk about both today, and not often in ways that illuminate the actual impacts of particular diseases on black people.
“So for example, you know when people say, ‘Oh the black women’s maternal mortality rate is appalling — a much higher rate than for whites,’? It’s good that we recognize that, but can we not make it about there being something wrong with black women?” said Hogarth. “Can we say that maybe black women are more likely to be discriminated against, to not be taken seriously, to have their complaints ignored than white women?”
Race, or rather racism, and health have also spelled doom for Chinese Americans. Unlike black people, they have not been deemed uniquely indestructible, but rather uniquely susceptible and contagious when it comes to disease. In the early 1900s, Chinatown was burned down in Honolulu out of a belief that the neighborhood was spreading the disease.
Conservatives (and USA Today) have been eager to label coronavirus the “Wuhan virus” or the “China virus,” further stigmatizing this ethnic population. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Chinese residents and students were getting racially harassed in the city well before the first case even turned up there.
“Personally I find the xenophobia and anti-Asian responses very troubling because the quick move from epidemic control to racist or otherwise discriminatory practices of public health has a long history and we seem to be on the precipice of writing a new chapter in that history,” said Alexandre White, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University also affiliated with the university’s department of the history of medicine. “That should be a concern not just for people of Asian descent, but any group that has been marginalized or oppressed for any reason. We can today see a lot of commonalities around racist discourse around Covid-19 and broader ideologies of racism throughout history.”
Much of that racist discourse was incubated during that 18th-century medical era response to the yellow fever outbreak. Race was used to formulate policies around who should and shouldn’t be exposed to a deadly disease, and then race was weaponized in the disease’s aftermath to determine who was responsible for it.
“In Philadelphia, [they] did what [they were] supposed to do, and look at what they get in return,” said Hogarth. “Their work is part of this long history of exasperation among African Americans who are saying that we are tired of trying to be part of this society even when we are excluded deliberately, and what we get is a minimizing of our suffering, and then blamed when things don’t go well.”
It’s clearly not a laughing matter.
I repeat this is not a laughing matter. Black people are not and may never be immune from contacting the virus or dieing due to the virus.
Take care of yourself