There’s an old saying that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, in other words, nobody is wrong all the time. I think that analogy is perfected suited when it comes to recent comments by progressive political commentator Van Jones regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the African-American community.
Now before we start, Jones is as progressive as I am not. I will argue if anyone were to implement his views on the economy and health care, America would quickly turn into the northern hemisphere version of Venezuela. However, even with that as a premise, Jones’ recent statements regarding African Americans’ health and COVID-19 were right on point.
As part of a broader discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on African Americans, Jones went down the usual laundry list of grievances involving “systematic racism” when it came to health care disparities, which he says are responsible, in part, for the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African-American communities. However, Jones also says lifestyle choices are also partially to blame.
“We must also take more responsibility for our own health. And boosting our immune health must be job number one. The science makes clear that our lifestyle choices — around sleep, nutrition, stress, and more — directly affect our ability to strengthen our immune system. And at a time when the virus is doing disproportionate damage to our communities, we need to ask: what can we do as individuals to get ourselves and our loved ones out of harm’s way?”
Looking at some of the reactions Jones received, you could have sworn he was recommending R. Kelly be a chaperone at your teenage daughter’s slumber party. He was accused of completely ignoring the impact of racism. One colleague of mine said instead of preaching at Black people, he needed to focus on what he was going to do to fix the problem. And one individual went so far as to say he views Black people the same way white people do.
This is why Black folks can’t have nice things.
Jones, who would usually be treated as a hero by these people, has now come under fire because he committed the unforgivable sins of telling the truth while advocating personal responsibility in the context of a broader discussion of addressing a societal ill. How dare he!!
It’s been established that the individuals most likely to succumb to COVID-19 are usually those with chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart conditions, just to name a few. And if you look at the data, African Americans are disproportionately more likely to be impacted by the coronavirus than other groups. Here in Indiana, Blacks are less than 10% of the population, but so far have been 16% of the diagnosed cases and more than 17% of the deaths. And in major urban centers, that number is even higher.
But with that backdrop, Jones simply saying Black folks should eat better, exercise more, use therapy and spirituality to deal with emotional pain rather than drugs of comfort eating is apparently now the equivalent of being the guy who brought the lighter fluid to the cross burning.
And he is not alone. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams (full disclosure is a personal friend, and we have known each other for years) got the Black activist classes all worked up over comments he made regarding African Americans and social distancing, or in other words, telling the truth.
We can have the debate on the causes and solutions to the overall public health crisis in many Black communities, but to completely dismiss the thought that you are the first line of defense when it comes to your health because it doesn’t fit the narrative that white folks are the reason that Black people are sick is ridiculous.
If these people were doctors, they would get sued for medical practice because I’d be the lawyer leading the charge because with Black advocates like these, who needs enemies like COVID-19?
Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, political commentator and publisher of IndyPolitics.org. You can email comments to him at email@example.com.