Op-ed by Rev. Michael Vaughn
As we continue to move through this pandemic some additional concerns have come about relative to the number of COVID-19 cases amongst African-Americans being much higher than that of White Americans. That fact has caused some alarm and also has those that see racism in everything to believe that there is some sort of conspiracy going on.
While it is true that health care among African-Americans lack that of White Americans, there is a role that we as African-Americans need to play. Part of my entire focus is that we as African-Americans are not victims and need to do what we can to take responsibility for ourselves but also make the change that we need to make for ourselves. We will always need assistance and support because we as human beings are never meant to do things alone, however, we need to lead instead of always following or looking for handouts from others or haphazardly blaming others.
It is known that there are some populations that are most at risk of succumbing to COVID-19, (cdc.gov search for Coronavirus), they include: adults 60 years or older, obese people, people with diabetes, people with heart problems, etc. What we also know is that in the African-American community we have struggles with diabetes, heart problems (mainly hypertension) and obesity. These are conditions that have been known for a while in the African-American community. Indeed, there may be many contributors to these factors such as access to preventive healthcare education, good nutrition, etc. But even with these factors there is one factor that we have complete control over and that is the choices that we make relative to what we put in our mouths. Many African-Americans enjoy a lot of fried foods, very salty foods, sugary drinks, etc. These are the types of things that can lead to the risk factors that would make someone more subject to dying from COVID-19.
We have a role to play in our own health and it is the denying of this and becoming upset with officials in our society that will help to keep us right where we are. We need to make a concerted effort to change how we eat and ensure that we are getting exercise (why exercise, it helps boost the immune system which will help fight COVID-19 and other diseases). Our eating habits get passed down from one generation to the next and what we might think is genetic is nothing more than learned behavior. If we teach our children to eat better and exercise, I believe that we would see the instances of diabetes, obesity and heart disease decline in our culture. Then when a disease such as COVID-19 arrives we will not be the “at risk” population.
It is not enough to just “shine the light” on the plight of African-Americans in the healthcare system and wait for Uncle Sam to come to the rescue. Because truth be told, there are many programs such as FoodLink that are currently available that would assist African-Americans to eat better. There are places like the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester that would help young people with exercise and yet not enough people take advantage of these programs. Therefore, just introducing another program will not solve the problem. There has to be a fundamental shift in behavior in order to see this decline of disease amongst African-Americans.
We can get up in arms about trying to protect a population from COVID-19 by enforcing social distancing, washing hands, etc. However, if while sequestered in our homes we are still eating tons of fried food, putting lots of salt on those greens and washing it down with sugary drinks, we have not solved the underlying problem. We just feel good because we are not around people other than family and our hands are clean. This is false sense of security if our bodies are constantly weakening because of what we just had for dinner!
Rev. Michael Vaughn currently serves as senior pastor at New Wineskin Church in Rochester. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)