The Other Epidemic: Race-Baiting in the Age of Covid-19
by Alexander Zubatov
There is a sinister epidemic afoot, but I’m not thinking of the one we’re all talking about. There is another one that arose some time before Covid-19 hit our shores and that is more than likely to continue its insidious spread long after Covid-19 is relegated to the history books. It is an epidemic of talking endlessly about race and racism. It is destroying our nation, tearing it apart at the seams. If we do not stop it, it will stop us. Just like Covid-19, it will attack us from the inside, suck up all our oxygen and leave us a nation on life support, if not worse.
I recently read an article in The Atlantic by Ibram X. Kendi. The article was entitled “Stop Blaming Black People for Dying of Coronavirus.” Excuse me?? Who exactly was blaming black people for dying of coronavirus? Well, you have to take a few steps back to follow the twisted logic here.
See, at the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, no one was blaming black people for anything; indeed, no one was paying very much attention to whether or not black people in particular were dying of coronavirus because we were all too busy paying attention to coronavirus itself and all trying to band together to come up with a winning strategy against this burgeoning pandemic. And that was as it should be. Viruses, unlike viral race-baiters, are race-blind. If a particular ethnic or racial group is dying of coronavirus in larger numbers, it is due to some combination of behaviors, pre-existing susceptibilities, whether genetic or environmental, or lack of access to medical care due to poverty or other issues of that sort. Racism has nothing to do with it.
But then some race-baiters got their usual ball rolling. A few senators and representatives — Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Ayanna Presley and Robin Kelly — started demanding the release of data on racial disparities and coronavirus. Once such data had been released to them, with the eager participation of the sensationalizing media, they let the other shoe drop on their self-fulfilling prophecy: racial disparities were in evidence, which — the illogical non sequitur has now become nearly universal — automatically meant racism was afoot. A media blitz emanating from every corner of the internet turned race and racism into a top coronavirus headline.
It is only after this divisive undercurrent had emerged into the foreground that a few voices of reason began pointing out some obvious problems with the nonsensical racism narrative. Blacks notoriously suffered from far higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, precisely the kinds of issues that predisposed them towards worse health outcomes when coronavirus hit. In particular, the prevalence of hypertension among blacks, at 44%, is among the highest in the entire world. The fact that the typical African-American diet is high in sugar (and oversized sugary beverages in particular), fast food and fried foods — foods that are naturally going to contribute to the development of these chronic health challenges — might be (is) a big part of the picture. Other people — such as our surgeon general, himself African American — dared to suggest that, in addition to these pre-existing health conditions leading to higher African-American mortality, African Americans might need to start taking social distancing a bit more seriously. That some African-American communities were not taking social distancing to heart is something surveys have borne out and something of which observers, including black mayors, have taken notice. Indeed, it is something that I witnessed every day as I passed by housing projects on my daily walks.
And so this is the juncture at which Ibram X. Kendi felt the need to step in and lecture us all — including the very people who were trying to give advice intended to protect African Americans from adverse health outcomes — about not blaming African Americans for dying of coronavirus in larger numbers. Again, no one had started out blaming African Americans for anything; it is only after the intemperate media machine had cranked up its printing presses to send vacuous accusations of racism flying in every direction that some others had stepped in to issue a necessary corrective; it is, of course, those throwing irresponsible cries of racism around who were the ones doing the blaming.
Despite ostensibly setting out to rebut other explanations, Kendi’s premise in his Atlantic article is that the coronavirus disparities really are about racism. He does not bother to prove this fact. It is an unquestioned, underlying assumption. Nor does Mr. Kendi do more than gesture dismissively in the general direction of the real culprits. Speaking of the disproportionate presence of chronic diseases among African Americans, he blames the now-traditional bugaboo of “systemic racism,” without providing a shred of evidence for that conclusion. Speaking of lackadaisical African-American responses to social distancing norms, he cites irrelevant studies showing that African Americans were more worried than others about coronavirus. Worrying, of course, is just half the battle. The other half consists of actually donning those face masks, washing hands and cutting down on the rowdy parties, the loitering by the entrance to convenience stores and shooting the breeze on the stoop with the crew. When Hassidic Jews in poor neighborhoods in Brooklyn get coronavirus in large numbers while continuing to stage massive weddings or crowded funerals that cops have to step in to break up, the media power-brokers grasp the fact that these people have no one but themselves to blame. But when African Americans defy the same norms, these same powers-that-be turn a blind eye to problematic behaviors and, instead, turn the dial back to slavery, embarking on their now-all-too-familiar and all-but-irrelevant recitations of American history in an attempt to muster up an inevitably fudged unbroken link back to the America’s original sin. Still more outrageously, even while they dredge up far-fetched alternative explanations rooted in antediluvian history for problems that are overwhelmingly being precipitated by far more recent and far more apparent failures, they are, at the very same time, concocting absurd excuses for African Africans not to bother with face masks: African Americans, authoritative sources like CNN, NBC and The New York Times tell us (without any evidence, of course), will be racially profiled if they wear masks. Let me put this as clearly as I can: even while these egregious race-baiters are shouting from the rooftops about the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on the black community and then trying to blame racism for the issue, they are irresponsibly offering blacks a ridiculous excuse — rooted in yet another form of alleged racism — to avoid wearing face masks and make themselves more susceptible to coronavirus. The implicit paradigm at work appears to be a closed circle where racism lies at the beginning, at the end and all through its circumference. There is no way out, nor do these professional race hustlers want there to be any way out, for that would mean that they would lose their livelihoods.
Consider, for example, the case of Ibram X. Kendi himself. The byline of his article describes him as “Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University.” It does not take much Googling around on this guy to see he lives, breathes and excretes race out of every fiber of his being. Check out his pinned tweet, which speaks volumes about his worldview:
Whatever may be true of other babies, it is clear Prof. Kendi’s imbibed his own obsessive bigotry with his mother’s milk and is going to do his darndest to make sure his kids start off with that same disabling chip on their shoulders. Consider also the insanity of a university hiring a professor whose job title is “Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center.” Imagine a parallel job title that goes, “Director of the Anti-capitalist Research and Policy Center.” How do you research something when you are pre-committed to a conclusion? What happened to the ideal of academic integrity, of staying above the fray and following facts and ideas wherever they may lead? What we have here, instead of a careful, thoughtful scholar is a committed ideologue and activist who walks in the classroom door with an “I am biased” cap always firmly planted on his thick head.
Now take this one step further: a magazine that purports to be an authoritative news source, such as The Atlantic, goes and hires a guy like this to put out something that is supposed to pass as “journalism.” What exactly do they expect him to write? Is someone like this going to be capable of thoughtful, unbiased analysis of current affairs? Of course not. Every article this race hustler churns out is going to begin and end with the same ole conclusion: there’s racism afoot. What’s the point? Who is being enlightened or educated by this guy going through the same motions for the umpteenth time?
Ibram X. Kendi is just one guy … but of course, he’s not just one guy. Whether Salon.com’s Chauncey DeVega who’s been pumping out dutifully wacky race screeds for years on end or The New York Times Magazine’s Nicole Hannah Jones who’s tried to turn an utterly demented and thoroughly racialized version of American history into historical gospel as the leading face of The New York Times’ sinister “1619 Project” or Ta-Nehisi Coates, that grand-daddy of all race-obsessed race hustlers who’s made a brilliant career out of deploying thousands upon thousands of words of soaring prose in the service of his small-minded, hateful, anti-white racist rage, Ibram K. Kendi and his many doppelgangers have been hard at work for some years now at the task of destroying American race relations and leaving us hopelessly divided and polarized by race.
And so now, here we are, in the midst of a deadly epidemic and still somehow, improbably and yet predictably, finding ourselves talking about race. Thousands of people are dying all across the world due to a virus, and these people still can’t elevate their minds above skin color. It is pathetic, and it is disgusting, and it is petty, and there are many more adjectives I can muster up, but perhaps the most important one is this: dangerous. These people are becoming dangerous to our ability to think deeply and see clearly, to our national morale, to our desperate need for unity in a time of crisis. As they have done time and again, they have succeeded in taking our eyes off the prize and turned it back to their accustomed pigsty in which it’s forever and always the black pigs against the pink pigs, and the pink pigs against the black pigs and ultimately, in the end, every pig for itself. And while the pigs fight it out and fling mud back and forth at one another, what they do not notice — indeed, what they might enjoy even if they did notice — is that as they continue to go at it, they and their pigsty and their pig farm and all the surrounding countryside is sinking deeper and deeper into the mud.
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Alexander Zubatov is a practicing attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. He is also a practicing writer specializing in general non-commercial poetry, fiction, drama, essays and polemics. In the words of one of his intellectual heroes, José Ortega y Gasset, biography is “a system in which the contradictions of a human life are unified.”
Some of his articles have appeared in The Federalist, Quillette, mises.org, Tablet, Times Higher Education, Areo Magazine, Public Discourse, The Imaginative Conservative, Chronicles, Front Porch Republic, The Independent Journal Review, Acculturated, PopMatters, The Hedgehog Review, Mercatornet, The Montreal Review, The Fortnightly Review, New English Review, Culture Wars and nthposition.
He makes occasional, unscheduled appearances on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Zoobahtov).