“Normal” Is the Stockpiling of the Dead
“More than 89% of black and Latinx patients, however, suffer
from underlying health conditions. Few want to talk about
why because to do so would be to become other than self
and think beyond the ‘normal’ and engage in listening to
blacks and Latinx. But, in America, it’s so much easier
to serve a corporate schedule of appointments,
fifteen minutes and out! Next on the schedule!”
“Businesses classified as ‘essential services’ include
grocery stores, pharmacies and even gun stores.”
Americans await the return to “normal.” Neighbors announce eagerness to return to “normal,” and, I nod, pretending that everything rest in my maneuvering to put six feet between us, walking on.
What was “normal” before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
I’m the head-of-household in my apartment. Alone here with my aging 13-year old cat, I have a 62-year old sister living in Chicago. Neither her nor her son are in the best of health. Her husband died in 2017 from health conditions he suffered for many years. When there isn’t a great deal of income and Whole Foods money isn’t an option, then you eat what neighborhood grocery stores have to offer.
I have younger siblings and cousins, too. Seniors, in that, they are all in their fifties. I’ve lost a brother, a mechanic, almost four years ago to lung cancer, and two cousins. One was a nurse and the other a prison guard. Health issues, both.
I have one cousin with asthma—serious enough for him to drive from Nebraska to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, seeking additional treatment. Two brothers suffer from hypertension.
When they where younger, my brothers worked for fast food establishments. Today, those in their fifties work in stressful service positions, stressful professional positions. Essential positions.
We siblings and cousins have long experienced the absence of parents and grandparents. Many years ago, some forty, thirty, twenty years ago, these older members along with aunts and uncles, died of complications to cancer or diabetes or heart conditions.
Migrating from Arkansas and Louisiana, during the Great Depression no less, our parents and grandparents arrive in northern cities to discover that life for African Americans wouldn’t be a whole lot better than down South. Living in the North had its own stresses, as Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. realized we he rented a flat on the West Side of Chicago back in the 1960s.
Not until months before my mother was diagnosed with cancer did she visit a hospital. I don’t recall her seeing a “GP.” The same for my father. I know one uncle at least, visited a doctor at the VA once he returned from serving 23 years in the Air Force. He ended his days in a nursing home.
But for the most part, on my maternal side of the family, folks seldom relied on the medical establishment; instead, they opted to seek medical service in my grandmother’s kitchen: a loose tooth was yanked on it enough, cold or runny nose was treated with cod liver oil, and an upset stomach received a table spoon or two of the “pink stuff,” Pepto-Bismol.
Cooking without salt, butter, lard, sugar—for starters, meant the pantry or the refrigerator needed to be restocked, even if full with the white packaging of bloody slabs of rib meat my father, a beef boner, brought home, every other Friday…
I can’t imagine anything in their lives that would have considered “normal”–except that maligning level of stress that comes from black in America. We are not necessarily healthier generation. And our children aren’t either. And almost every African American knows another black, a friend, neighbor, or co-worker suffering from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, or cancer. Stress-related health issues are as pervasive as the long-term of lead is to residents in Flint, Michigan.
And yet, what a shock it was on April 9, 2020, for America to travel again to that perpetual “new” and “uninhabited” world only to discover people, and those people, black and Latinx people, are dying of the COVID-19 at alarming rates. Is there disparity between us and them? And the network and cable pundits asked one another to explain? Please explain! What’s been happening?
The reality is that there’s racism and profits. That deadly ideology of white supremacy is what kills African Americans. The US capitalist can’t afford to pay for the health and well being of “free” African Americans!
(In the meantime, white Americans, during this COVID-19 pandemic, stockpiling guns and ammunition?)
Are you anxious? Suffering from anxiety? How would you rate your level of depression? Are you depressed?
Whenever I see my oncologist, I’m asked these questions by someone who, regardless of her youth, doesn’t expect any sassy response from an “ole black woman.” So I look past the nurse, and, jokingly, suggest that it’s no more than usual! Ha ha ha!
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the first month of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 33% of blacks were hospitalized, yet black Americans consists of 13% of the US population. In contrast, 45% of white Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19 while whites make up 76% of the population. The Latinx population is at 18%, but 8% were hospitalized in the first month of the outbreak (Washington Post).
The impact of this pandemic within the African American and Latinx communities shouldn’t haven’t alarmed medical personnel, for example. How many of these patients, often with job-connected health insurance, suffer from stress-related illnesses? How many of these patients receive Social Security Benefits for underlying health problems? How many of these African American and Latinx patients are victims of policies fueled by an ideology of white supremacy? That last question is a bit tricky since most white Americans, regardless of their professional, would prefer not to think about “politics.”
More than 89% of black and Latinx patients, however, suffer from underlying health conditions. Few want to talk about why because to do so would be to become other than self and think beyond the “normal” and engage in listening to blacks and Latinx. But, in America, it’s so much easier to serve a corporate schedule of appointments, fifteen minutes and out! Next on the schedule!
That’s the “normal” in America.
The “normal” before COVID-19, for example, tracked by the CDC, showed the disproportionate number of Type 2 diabetes cases among African Americans to be alarming, indeed, “epidemic,” with some 4.9 million African Americans suffering from this disease.
It shouldn’t have been surprising that black Americans have less access to healthcare. If there is a job, there might be health insurance. Or a Type 2 diabetic could just work two jobs or maybe three so there’s just enough income to pay for shelter, eat, and purchase insulin! At any rate, as long as there’s a job offering health insurance, then there’s health insurance.
In Chicago, where blacks make up 30% of the population, 70% of this population have been hospitalized with COVID-19.
It’s not just that health insurance is absent or minimal or linked to whether or not the patient remains on the job, but, according to Eugene Scott, writing for the Washington Post on the findings of the National Institutes of Health, hospitals within the black community are not well funded, and many have been subject to closures.
On visits to Chicago, my birthplace, I noticed the expansion of the Northwestern University’s Medical facilities. Serving residents in the downtown area where Trump Tower and other high-priced condominiums are home to the wealthy, it has competition from the University of Illinois Medical facilities. Not to be outdone, on the South Side, the Hyde Park’s University of Chicago has expanded it’s campuses as well.
What makes possible all this expansion of expensive real estate if not the mindset that considers the value of the lives of African Americans, Latinx, the economically poor and homeless of no worth. Why should the real estate industry worry itself with providing affordable and equitable housing for a population that has no voice and, therefore, no power (as in wealth)? African Americans lose employment or shelter or health insurance or all three at once—then what happens? Family? Often moving in with family members isn’t feasible if, say, the brother, struggling to remain employed at a low-paying and unsafe job to stay indoors at night and have food at the table in the evening, at least, for young children. If the mother who should have retired is forced to continue working to afford the beta-blockers for her heart condition, then it’s likely she can’t afford to feed an addition mouth or more for longer than a week or two. And in a “normal” America, if you are below the poverty line, to lose shelter due to layoffs or gentrification is often the last straw.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, some 47% of all homeless people in the US are black.
Most service employees can’t work at home, and most service employees are black Americans. Among the 20 million Americans who’ve filed claims for unemployment benefits are black Americans.
And it never ends…
No, in the “normal,” black Americans aren’t listened to! Aren’t heard! Black Americans appear on the peripheral of “We the People,” servicing a system rigged to maintain the “normal.”
…And our silence too! That’s the insidious irony of that “normal,” missed by Americans who think they benefit from it’s deliberate dysfunction. For decades, African Americans have struggled to break through the imposition of silence. Yet, on top of everything else blacks have had to contend with, living in the dysfuntional “normal,” blacks are reminded often to censor themselves so as not to appear threatening to a system that doesn’t care if they die by the droves.
Subject to micro-aggressive behavior of white supervisors, co-workers, neighbors, store clerks, the children’s teachers some of African American and Latinx are driven to over eating, over smoking, over drinking—exacerbating congenital and chronic health problems. Racism is simply a matter of opinion–”your opinion!”
For many in the African American and Latinx communities, the wellbeing of white Americans becomes a job in itself! How to stay one step ahead of frightening white neighbors or co-workers or store managers? Or law enforcement…
Circulating on the Internet is a video showing a white police officer, stopping his vehicle across from a van that is open in the back, exposing what appears to be hospital equipment. Gowns and masks. There are some items on the ground near the van. A man is packing this van, but he’s interrupted: he must take note of the office approaching him—with handcuffs. Only seconds have passed! Just as the man reaches the police car, he turns to call up to his wife, who appears and begins talking to the police from the sidewalk.
There’s been a misunderstanding. Really?
This scene is just like before, in the “normal,” for the young man in handcuffs is a black American. In fact, he’s a doctor, on his way to supplying the homeless with necessities to survive COVID-19 while living on the streets—in America!
The narrative, “we’re all in this together,” contradicts the “normal” Americans so eagerly await. I can’t imagine most Americans were disturbed by the “alarming” news that so many African Americans and Latinx have been stricken by the COVID-19 virus. The underlying health condition in America is that those dead bodies forced many to remember their white privilege—it can be so “normal” to believe it’s natural, if not divine.
Even if the economy hasn’t been beneficial to 99% of their population, nonetheless, they await it’s return to “normal.”
Normal? If only America could move past what counts as normal!
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory.