On Monday it was announced that ICU nurse Sandra Lindsay, employed at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, was the first person in the United States to be inoculated with COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNtech.
The vaccine is also the first to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
“This vaccine is exciting because I believe this is the weapon that will end the war,” Gov. Cuomo said at a press conference connected to a live feed of the injection. “It’s the beginning of the last chapter of the book but now we just have to do it.”
The Public Shaming of Black Folks
Indeed, as the world careens to and fro due to the ever-escalating pandemic which has killed more than a quarter of a million Americans thus far, Black folks in America have been constantly gaslighted regarding a non-sensical resistance to COVID, in part due to purposefully misleading memes on social media, and the fact that COVID cases in Sub-Saharan Africa were originally very low (and still are).
Then, the pendulum of silliness swung in the complete opposite direction, as death tolls mounted for African Americans who worked as first responders, teachers, law enforcement officers, nurses, doctors and others employed in people-facing occupations. To me, it seemed, the work-life connection was an obvious marker for exposure.
This was predictable for some who had been monitoring Black cultural sensibilities juxtaposed against the backdrop of mainstream beliefs and ideals for a living.
Then came the shaming, both in mass and social media, regarding our ability to discern what is right and what is wrong during a pandemic when a sitting president is purposefully misleading people.
Though I’d like to think of myself as a person who believes in the scientific methods of research, hypothesis and experimentation, I am also a perpetual student of history, and sociology as well.
And for much of this country’s existence expanding the borders of scientific knowledge took a devastating toll on the bodies and minds of Black people.
A Circle Within a Circle
Not to belabor the point, but the Tuskegee Experiment, cells of Henrietta Lacks, and the hideous experiments of the so-called “Father of Gynecology” on the unanesthetized, living flesh of enslaved Black women in Alabama.
Nurse Lindsay’s vaccination is somewhat the undertakings made by Richard Allen of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and minister Absalom Jones as they requested and were granted the release of imprisoned Black prisoners to serve as nurses for those afflicted with Yellow Fever in 1793, all are very relevant within this contemporary circumstance.
The fact that a Black woman is the first to be injected with the COVID-19 vaccination in a highly-publicized and theatrical manner, as commonfolk wonder aloud about the potential side effects, isn’t happenstance.
As in 1793, so it came to pass in 2020.
Meanwhile, the blogosphere has already bombarded Black people with shameful barbs regarding their right to be suspicious of the American medical establishment while simultaneously parroting the very same establishment as if their opinions are unassailable.
Blinding You With “Science”
No, it is NOT silly for Black people to second guess the American medical establishment considering a long history of medical quackery and barbarism regarding the anatomy of Black folks.
And, no, these musings aren’t out of some dusty old journal filed away on a long-forgotten Dewey decimal designation, but fresh from the headlines of a fairly recent survey of medical professionals regarding the pain threshold of Black patients.
According to a survey published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, 40 percent of first- and second-year medical students believe that Black people have thicker skin, have less sensitive nerve endings and that their blood coagulates faster than that of their mainstream counterparts.
Additionally, half of those interviewed believed at least one of the falsehoods about the bodies of Black folk.
Who remembers when the Vice President once told reporters he desired for early vaccine trials to take place in Detroit, Michigan?
Couple that information with the fact that two of the top three states suffering the most COVID cases are red states-Texas and Florida-it is indeed curious that Newark, NJ, with its 54 percent Black demographic, saw the first COVID vaccinations in the Garden State.
Yes, the majority of those vaccinations will go to medical workers, the elderly and others at high risk, but the overall picture painted DOES give one pause. That’s just how the brain works.
Look, all of us have had vaccines, and most of us were better off for them. MOST of us.
However, to say that we’re supposed to just “get down with the get down” simply because some folks in white coats told us that it’s okay completely ignores history and disregards our collective traumatic experiences.
It is certain that each of us will have a day of reckoning regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and any mandatory protocol that may or may not follow. But to simply say that Black folks are being silly when America’s medical ledger is bright red with the blood of enslaved Africans and their descendants is some bullsh*t.