The Unbeatable Duo, Flu And Corona


Throughout 2020, we’ve encountered murderous hornets, raging fires, worldwide protests, and a pandemic. I haven’t been writing for a while, and there’s a lot to discuss over the last few months. However, what we’re headed for is what’s most concerning. Coronavirus has been rampant worldwide ever since early March 2020, and possibly even earlier. Minority communities have been devastated by coronavirus, and influenza season is coming quick, I’m afraid of the travesty minority communities will face if or when the flu and coronavirus attack at once.

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Researchers

We are nearing flu season, and coronavirus has yet to yield, so scientists are rushing to determine all the potentials and consequences. But, as with COVID, there are still no certainties. In early March 2020, many people naïvely compared Coronavirus’ deaths to influenza’s death rate. Influenza took between 24,000-62,000 lives in 2019-2020, according to the CDC. Meanwhile, COVID-19’s deaths are nearing one million cases. “The worst-case scenario is both [the coronavirus and the flu] are spreading fast and causing severe disease, complicating diagnoses and presenting a double burden on the health care system,” says Marc Lipsitch.

There has been some whisper of a cure going around. Trump mentioned that a vaccine should be ready by late 2020 a few times. However, according to many doctors, the CDC only recommended hospitals prepare for a vaccine mostly because they wanted them to be extra prepared. And even if the vaccine were to come out by the end of this year, only the at-risk citizens and essential workers are likely to receive it. The rest of the country will most likely receive the vaccine well into mid 2021.

Black man covering his face with his hands.
Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash
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Racial Crisis

You probably don’t hear about this issue very often, if at all, on the news. It’s not a new issue, it’s just exacerbated because of COVID-19. The point I’m referring to is the way our country’s medical infrastructure fails our minority communities time and time again. From birth complication rates to vaccination rates, minority communities are always hit the worst. With the influenza season coming, I have the privilege to go and get my flu shot without worry. However, I worry for the lower socioeconomic, minority community, who was already hit disproportionately worse by COVID-19. Add on top of that, minorities are less likely to receive a flu vaccination. In 2018, the CDC conducted a study examining the racial disparities within vaccinations. Here’s what they found:

Chart that shows the percentages of flu infections by race.

As you can see, the white community makes up most vaccinations in the United States, with numbers near 50%. Followed by Asian at 44%, Black at 40 %, and Hispanic at 37%. Hispanics and Blacks receive flu vaccinations around 10% less often than white people. This difference may not seem drastic but add this on top of the coronavirus rates by race.  According to the CDC, per a single case of a white person with coronavirus, there are 2.6 Black cases, 2.8 Hispanic cases, and 1.1 Asian cases. As you can see, COVID-19 is raging through minority communities at more than double the white neighborhoods’ rate. And with influenza season on the way, sadly, too many lives will be threatened.

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The Unpredictability

Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist at the University of Chicago, says, “it is hard to predict” the flu season’s infection rate alongside COVID-19. Cobey explains that what’s to come is incredibly unpredictable because human behavior largely determines the infection rate. While it is possible to look at other nations for reference, there is no surefire way to tell what will happen. For instance, nations in the southern hemisphere experience flu season exactly opposite of us, due to the inverted seasons. Southern hemispheric countries acquired a surplus of flu vaccines. However, they haven’t seen any spikes in flu infections.

Consider This from NPR podcast suggests this could be because of already-in-place mask-wearing regulations and social distancing. While scientists may look to this as a reference for the northern hemispheric nations, there are significant differences. The podcast pointed out that winters are milder in the southern hemisphere than in the north, which means that people spend more time indoors in northern countries, which means more contact between people.

Human behavior comes into play when trying to predict the path influenza will take. Many other countries have been taking COVID-19 much more seriously than here in the United States, and Americans are much less likely to socially distance or wear masks. Therefore, there is no reason the flu will hit any less than it does every other year or worse. Scientists are hopeful for a vaccine come at the end of 2020, and while it may only reach the elderly and at-risk citizens, we’re going to need anything we can get if flu season and coronavirus team-up.

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Photo by United Nations on Unsplash
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The Whole Tree Is Rotten

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Photo by ev on Unsplash

When people use the phrase “a few bad apples,” they mean that most police officers are non-racist, well-rounded people. The statement distances wrongdoing cops from rule-following ones. However, I believe a more appropriate phrase is, “the whole tree is rotten.” At first, I thought all police couldn’t be corrupt. I reasoned with myself. I’ve met cops, and they didn’t attack me, right? And then, I started to doubt my original thoughts. The truth, as I came to find out, is much more complicated than right or wrong. Many officers may be friendly, but what does it mean to be a “bad apple?” Why are there corrupt police officers?” And what does it mean that the whole tree is rotten? 

What Is A Bad Apple?

The phrase “bad apple” describes those few officers you see on television committing acts of police brutality. Daniel Pantaleo, who murdered Eric Garner over illegal cigarette sales in New York City, is considered a “bad apple.” Timothy Loehmann, who killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy, over a — known — fake gun, is regarded as a “bad apple.” Brett Hankison, the yet-to-be-arrested murderer of Breonna Taylor, is a “bad apple.”

As you can see, the standard for a rotten officer classifies as one who has committed a quite severe crime. Fellow officers and law enforcement enthusiasts are quick to note that these murderous officers are mostly alone in their actions. Thus, claiming that the entirety of police officers nationwide are majority kind and non-racist people. I, however, believe that this standard to be considered a corrupt officer is much too high.

It’s Not Just The Apple; It’s The Tree

When I watch videos of all the tragic confrontations that I mentioned above and many others, I notice fellow police officers standing by. In George Floyd’s case, three separate officers stood by as a man gasped for air, using his last few breaths to call out to his mother.

To stand by and watch as someone as their fellow officers murder someone is just as criminal as the murder itself. And there’s a reason why I’ve never, and you’ve most likely never heard of a police officer stopping crime by another officer. And if it has happened — which I hope it has — it doesn’t happen enough. This lack of police accountability within the force shows that it isn’t a few bad apples on a healthy tree; it’s a few edible apples on a majorly rotten tree.

The criteria for a corrupt cop are not only murdering a helpless person or frisk minorities on the sidewalk, but it’s also defined by what you do when you see those things.

Photo by Nikolai Chernichenko on Unsplash
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Why Are There Bad Apples?

After blame is dealt and prosecution is adequately distributed, we cannot settle as a nation. While entirely responsible for their actions, police officers are merely fulfilling racist and oppressive policies put in place by our systemically racist institution. Policies that target and feed off the oppression of African Americans and minorities in general.

Slavery, in its most blatant form, is no longer present in the United States. However, slavery itself has gone nowhere, and our country benefits from it. I’ll run through the process briefly, but for more detail, I recommend watching The 13th on Netflix — which is where I learned all of this upcoming information.

Here’s where I’ll begin:

War On Drugs — 1970s

In 1971, Richard Nixon declared war on drugs, which involved crackdowns on a supposedly increasing usage of crack cocaine in Black and Brown neighborhoods. Meanwhile, increasing usage of pure cocaine in white communities went primarily disregarded. Nixon’s administration claimed that Black people were just hardcore drug users. The truth didn’t arise until Nixon’s top advisor admitted the administration’s wrongdoings. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people,” stated Nixon’s domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman. He continued with, “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Richard Nixon officially “declaring war” on drugs in 1971.
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War On Drugs — 1980s

Then in 1982, Ronald Reagan declared war on drugs again. Reagan’s campaign used the word “super predator” to describe young black men, thus creating fear of black men. Reagan followed Nixon’s footsteps, over-policing Black neighborhoods, and imprisoning them at an extremely disproportionate rate.

Ronald Reagan declares war on drugs on October 14, 1982

Crime Bill — 1994

This last example is the Crime Bill passed in 1994 under Bill Clinton. The bill implanted many things, but most importantly, noted were the 3-strikes law and the $9.7billion funded to prisons. First, the 3-strike law means that anyone convicted of “two prior convictions for crimes defined as serious or violent” would get a life sentence for their 3rd offense no matter how minor. Prison populations skyrocketed once again, but this time with people spending life sentences for petty theft and other similar crimes . According to the Three Strikes Project, the 3-strike law increased a prison’s budget by $19 billion. Clinton claims he did not know that the Crime Bill would target minorities at a higher rate, but the fact that the bill already factored in $9.7 billion in funds to prisons, I find that hard to believe.

President Bill Clinton announces the Crime Bill in 1994.

During this period, businesses began making their money off the backs of Blacks, again. No, I don’t mean they put African Americans in fields. I mean, they put imprisoned Blacks to work for little to no pay. Major corporations like McDonald’s and Walmart both used prison labor as a major source for their products. Both have supposedly changed from the inhumane practice. But plenty of organizations still utilize the practice.

Knowing how the country benefits from the increased prison population, you can understand why a president’s agenda may include being tough on crime. All of this to explain how oppressive and racist policies utilize law enforcement. The apples are no less spoiled, but now you know that the rottenness doesn’t begin in the apple, it begins in the roots.

Times are changing now. The entire system is exposed, vulnerable to real, systemic change. So, let’s end it all for good. Remember: it’s a movement, not a moment, so never settle for anything less than equality.

June’s 2020 Inspirational Icon—The Black Godfather

An illustration of Clarence Avant (The Black Godfather) by Ryan Melgar
ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN MELGAR

You most definitely heard of famous celebrities, like P. Diddy and Jay Z or Bill Withers and Janet Jackson. You may even think you know their inspirational stories, but there’s one person you most definitely haven’t heard. This man sits behind the curtain and at the deal-making tables, but never shows his face to a crowd. I only personally heard of him after watching his documentary, The Black Godfather. Musical artists, actors, television hosts and hostesses, and even presidents go to this man when they want something done, whether they want a better deal, or more money, he’s the man everyone goes to. Clarence Avant is the celebrities’ celebrity.

Presidents

The first president to approach Avant was Bill Clinton. Avant was surprised that Clinton had come to him for help, but surely enough he helped Clinton become better allies with the black community. The second president to go to Avant was yours truly, Barack Obama. During 2007-2008, Obama was dwelling over the idea of running for president of the United States. He wasn’t sure how to get started in the process, but he knew that if you ever wanted to do something in the United States, “go to Avant.” And, so he did. Avant guided Obama in all the right directions, sat him down with all the right people, and taught him all the ins and outs. And so, Avant was essential to the Obama becoming president. But the country never knew that, no one did. And that is why Avant’s skills are so unique.

Hollywood

Avant was essential to the success of Motown Records and the many of artists that came from it. Musical artists such as Jay Z, Ludicrous, Bill Withers, Jamie Foxx, Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, etc., were all backed by Avant. Actors, Jackie Chan and Will Smith, etc., were also influenced and carried by Avant. Each artist has a different experience with Avant, but they all owe their careers to him.

Good Will

Of all the people and things Avant did, not one person can remember him ever asking for money. This shows just how kind-hearted Avant was. He didn’t care who you were, he helped anyone and everyone and never asked for a dime. He especially helped the black community because he felt an obligation to the success of the community.

Civil Rights

Alongside Avant’s unique skill to connect people and make deals, he is very passionate about civil rights. In his documentary, many of the celebrities that Avant helped mention that he would also make sure things were equal and fair, no matter what. Avant was key in organizing protests and demonstrations throughout his life.

Documentary

If you want to watch an in-depth documentary about Clarence Avant’s life and the people whose lives he touched, then I highly suggest watching The Black God Father on Netflix. It interviews Avant and includes testimonies of all the people who he’s helped and all the things he’s done.

Here’s How Racism Circulates Private School

School Girl with Book in front of natural rustic red brick background holding book up to her face.
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

My Experience With Racism In Private Schools Black In The Suburbs

I'm Cleveland Lewis and in this episode of Black In The Suburbs, I explain what my experience in a private high school was like. Racism is certainly not gone, but it's not how it used to be. Racism persists because those who can change the issue censor and ignore it.  Check out my blog at http://www.thesocialblog.org Instagram: blkintheburbs

I grew up in an upper-middle-class lifestyle, about an hour, or two, north of NYC. Our house lies on the border of two neighboring counties. I lived in one city district, but a different school district. Which meant that I couldn’t go to the school in the city I lived in. And the school district I lived in, had low graduation rates and poor education standards. So, my parents put my brothers and me in a private Catholic school from pre-k to 12th grade. After 12 years in private school, this is what I’ve learned. From the teachers ignoring racism to the students endorsing it, here’s how racism circulates private school.

Let’s Start With The Teachers

The teachers act as if they’re oblivious to what the students say and do. I can’t say I’ve ever heard a teacher say anything blatantly racist — though my Harry Potter theology teacher once said: “Obama and those liberals are ruining the country.” But, while they don’t participate in the racism, they ignore it thus, allowing and enabling it. Here are a few examples when teachers and faculty ignored blatant racism, therefore showing how racism circulates private school.

  1. A student made a “White Power” poster, and the teacher hung it in the hallway.
  2. A student wrote “racist propaganda” on Black History Month poster, and no one cares.
  3. A dean censored my senior quote, which expressed my experience at school.

Just from reading the beginning of these three examples, it is evident that the school chooses to ignore the racism, thus, allowing and therefore enabling it. Journalist and author, Ibram X. Kendi explains this concept best. He describes how allowing bigotry is just as racist as other discriminatory actions. And this is the most essential point I’m trying to get across. The teachers’ allowance of discrimination explains how racism circulates private school. Keep reading below, and I’ll explain those three incidents in more detail.


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My Most Racist Experiences

When I explain my experience through high school, it is vastly different from how the non-minority students experienced it. Most non-minority students met some of their closest friends at school, but I always felt like I didn’t belong to anyone. There were other Black students, but I rarely — if ever — had classes with them. These experiences explain why I always felt like an outlier and how racism circulates private schools.

I can vividly remember my senior art class, it was some time during February— Black History Month. The art teacher had planned a project to celebrate and honor Black History Month, and I was honestly impressed. The whole month, every time I stepped into that classroom, it seemed like something was hanging in the air as if it were just a matter of time before someone made a racist comment, and I would have to defend myself. Plainly enough, the day and the remark came.

It was the day we were finishing up the project, and a girl stood up:

“I’m making mine a ‘White Power’ poster!” she exclaimed.

“Um, why?” asked the teacher.

“Because like if there’s a Black History Month, like why isn’t there a white history month?” replied the student.

And the teacher said nothing to the student.

With the teacher leaving the girl’s question unanswered, she was essentially giving in and letting her express her “white power,” which is was just a blatantly obvious way for her to express her disapproval of black history. This example is indicative of the concept that when you allow racism, you enable it, and therefore, you are racist.

If you were wondering, yes, that “White Power” poster was hung up in our main hallway along with the “Black History Month” posters. And for weeks, the deans, teachers, and principles, walked past it, and yet it hung. Now, you may choose to argue that the poster was allowed because of freedom of speech and if you did think that, bravo, you’re a free thinker. Unfortunately, that was not the case — let me explain why the poster was grossly discriminatory and hypocritical.

This next instance took place towards the middle of the senior year, we were taking pictures and submitting senior quotes for the yearbook. The due date for senior quotes came quickly, so the night before, I looked up quotes online, and after several hours, I found the PERFECT one. Another black student at a different high school had used it, and it perfectly captured my four years — no, my past 12 years of private school.  

My senior quote submission read as: “Anything is possible when you sound Caucasian on the phone.”

Later that week — after I submitted it — I got called down to the dean’s office. I curiously, and slightly nervously, walked in and sat down. She — the dean — started off, “I get where you’re coming from, but we can’t allow this in the yearbook,” she said. I nodded my head and said, “OK,” — as I’d always been taught to — and I submitted a different generic motivational quote.

Now, I understand how someone could take this quote the wrong way, but that shouldn’t matter because if the school truly endorsed freedom of speech, then there is no reason it should have been censored. There were no curse words, no blasphemy, nothing hurtful, just a short quote that wholly described white privilege and my experience at school. Yet it was censored.

The last example of the allowance of racism takes place during Black History Month as well. Another African American student designed an awesome poster honoring all the young black men who’ve unnecessarily died, and all the Black activists and heroes. It was honestly a really cool poster. I walked into the lunchroom — where the poster was hung — and saw a student run up to it. I couldn’t tell what he was doing, but when I sat down with my friends, they said he had written “racist propaganda” on the poster.

It didn’t hit me until later, just how racist it was of him to write that. He was essentially claiming that the poster— honoring black history— was racist towards white people. Whether he was being facetious or not, I don’t know, but either way, it was a tactic to express his white superiority.

After the incident, and the teachers found out who wrote it, nothing happened. He was called to the dean’s office, but he was never put in detention, not one punishment at all. This, yet again, exemplifies that the teachers are pushing racism “under the rug.”

Looking at these contrasting situations, I believe they capture the essence of how racism circulates in private school. While it is not run with a racist mindset, it is undoubtedly set on ignoring and censoring it.

The racism in my private school was definitely not unique, nor was it the worst, but it was unquestionably eye-opening.

At my high school, racism circulated because no one wanted to talk about it. This is much like how racism works throughout the entire world. It’s similar to a societal response:

Something racist happens, the news reports it, people act as if it never happened or call it “fake news,” and thus, the cycle repeats. This is why racism circulates the entire world. We need to encourage conversations about racism. It should not be “controversial” to talk about race. I urge you to have a peaceful conversation about something “controversial.”

One conversation at a time, we can normalize essential topics and change the world.

April’s Inspirational Icon—Shonda Rhimes


Born in Illinois on January 13, 1970, Shonda Rhimes was the youngest of 5 siblings. She recieved her B.A. at Dartmouth College. She later recieved her M.F.A. at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Rhimes has always had an exemplerary work ethic. From her highschool days all the way through the University of Sounthern California, her unique horse-like work ethic is one of the most important reasons why she is at the pinnacle of the television industry.

Achievements

Shonda Rhimes, screenwriter and producer is most known for her shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and Private Practice. Rhimes is the at the apex of the producing industry. From the prestigious NAACP Image Award to the highly coveted Producers Guild of America Award, she’s won too many awards to count. Rhimes, herself, best explains in a 2016 TED Talk what her daily workload is like:

“Three shows in production at a time, sometimes four. The budget for one episode of network television can be anywhere from three to six million dollars. Let’s just say five. A new episode made every nine days, times four shows—so every nine days, that’s 20 million dollars’ worth of television. Four television programs, 70 hours of TV, three shows in production at a time, sometimes four, 16 episodes going on at all times. That’s 350 million dollars a season. My television shows are back to back to back on Thursday night. Around the world, my shows air in 256 territories in 67 languages for an audience of 30 million people.”

-Shonda Rhimes

4 Of Rhimes’ Most Popular Shows

1. Scandal

Person hold cinema tool.

2. How to Get Away with MurdeR

3. Private Practice

4. grey’s anatomy

Shonda Rhimes’ TED Talk 2016

Thanks for reading this months Inspirational Icon! Make sure to come back on May 1st for next month’s. See you soon!

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