Coronavirus Puts Black Men In Mortal Danger — But We Need More Numbers
The more data we have, the better we’re able to cope with what’s roaring toward us
A s a journalist, I pride myself on staying free of biases and emotional reactions, allowing readers to arrive at their own conclusions. As an industrial engineer with research experience in nuclear chemistry, I strive to let data tell the story. As an activist, I fight for marginalized communities to enjoy equitable participation in our democracy, with a strong emphasis on the issues affecting Black men. That last quest has consistently proven the most challenging — not because of the merits of such work, but the responses I get. The “but what about [insert demographic here]?” The cries of racism. The resistance to the idea that in trying times, the Black community, and Black men in particular, have historically suffered most acutely.
Today, those responses have made my heart and soul heavy. Because if we don’t ring the alarm, if we don’t get a proper sense of what’s roaring toward us, then when we come out on the other side of this pandemic we will find that while Covid-19 has killed without compassion or remorse, it will have killed more Black men — both per capita and in soul-crushing absolute numbers — than any other group.
There’s a way to avoid that outcome. But to do so, we first need to visit Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941, where two different origin stories were running in parallel.
For the “Tuskegee Experiment,” which had begun a few years prior, investigators from the United States Public Health Service had recruited 600 impoverished African American sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama, with the promise of free health care from the federal government. The study’s true purpose, though, was to observe untreated syphilis — which nearly two-thirds of the men had in latent form. The men were told that the study was only going to last six months; it lasted 40 years. None of the men were told that they had the disease, and none were treated even as penicillin’s effectiveness became known. Most troubling, in order to…