Op-ed by Rev. Michael Vaughn
As you are all aware, we have come through one of the most trying times, public health wise, that this country has ever seen. Whether you like him or not, trust him or not, the truth is that President Trump led the most aggressive campaign to get a vaccine to combat a deadly virus in the history of America. Now based on the efforts of his administration, the delivery of the vaccine to the population is underway. It is here where I want to focus this discussion. I have seen articles, Facebook posts, TV commercials, various interviews, etc., that are targeting African Americans in hopes of getting them vaccinated. I have my own personal opinions regarding the vaccine (that I won’t share now), there is more to the situation that we are facing in the black community regarding getting vaccinated than is being shared and in my humble opinion it needs to be.
All these efforts to get more black people vaccinated overlook two (2) very important realities. First, the medical community has not been kind (that is an understatement) to black people historically. From the experiments that were performed on slaves to the Tuskegee experiment to the fact that black boys are more likely than white boys to be diagnosed with ADHD when these black boys are just being energetic young boys. So based on history, there is a general distrust in the black community for the medical profession and what they tell us is “good” for us. This is something that is culturally experienced based on the history that black people have endured from the medical community. It is disingenuous for the medical community to come into the black community using her leaders to coerce black folks to take the vaccine without acknowledging the ills of the past. It is extremely interesting to me that some of the same black leaders that will speak against racism, etc., will not speak to what occurred in the past to black people from the medical community. One must be wholistic in their representation of the black community otherwise it looks as though one is being a pawn used by forces that many black leaders state they are against (e.g. the white establishment).
Secondly, it appears that the medical community is less interested in educating black people and working with their black leaders on preventative measures. We have known for a very long time that in the black community obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes were major issues. However, there didn’t seem to be an “all out blitz” to help the black community realize that these health issues were contributing to shorter life spans. It also hasn’t been widely mentioned that folks with these health issues are much more likely to succumb to COVID-19 than those without these issues. Think of how many fewer black people would have died from COVID-19 if we’d eliminated (or more realistically, aggressively reduced) obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes from our community? While there can be many reasons why one would experience these health challenges, I think that it is a true statement that individuals can make huge impacts against these health challenges by eating a better diet and exercising more. With the ability for individual action to make a large impact it seems like there should have been an abundance of ads, etc., to help the black community eradicate these health challenges.
However, when an issue such as COVID-19 hits, the solution is to take the vaccine but still no emphasis on lifestyle changes. Could it be that there is a racist component in medicine? Does the medical community believe that black people are not smart enough to make lifestyle changes that will prolong their lives? Not sure, but it is something to think about!
Rev. Michael is senior pastor of New Wineskin Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org