Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is African American, on Friday addressed the disparity between black and white deaths from the coronavirus. The virus attacks people of color more frequently than the population at large.
People with pre-existing conditions, some the product of behavior, are more vulnerable. Adams warned people of color about this.
“The chronic burden of medical ills,” the Surgeon General said Friday, “is likely to make people of color, especially, less resilient to the ravages of COVID-19. And it is possibly, in fact, likely that the burden of social ills is likely contributing.”
Adams’ shocking prescriptions included voluntarily abstaining from cigarettes and alcohol. In making his pitch, Adams used slang. He urged people to restrain from bad habits “for your abuela.” “Do it for your granddaddy, do it for your big mama, do it for your pop-pop.”
Yamiche Alcindor of PBS News Hour , who is dramatically increasing her name recognition by her confrontational style in daily White House press briefings, tweeted that some may find this language “offensive.”
On cue, controversy erupted. People didn’t simply find the language uncomfortable (I have to confess, I might have urged Adams to word his plea differently), but Adams was accused of racism. Indeed, Rolling Stone, which never disappoints, found Adams’ admonition “steeped in racism.”
Why are some people so furious with Jerome Adams?
Well, the doctor forgot to blame what the ideologically motivated claim is America’s intrinsic racism for the discrepancy. The iconoclastic and always interesting John McWhorter explains the outrage (“The Surgeon General Meets the Language Police”) in The Atlantic:
Members of a certain highly educated cohort consider it sacrosanct that those speaking for or to black people always and eternally stress structural flaws in America’s sociopolitical fabric past and present as the cause of black ills. To mention that there are more concrete and local solutions to various things ailing black America, regardless of their origin, is traitorous—even blasphemous.
Whatever the volume and rhetorical brilliance of this ideology, it is indeed an ideology. Specifically, it represents a way of thinking that has become especially popular among, for example, the black intelligentsia over the past decade or three, but has much less purchase among black people in general. The writers and thinkers give an impression that their take is simple truth, when it has actually devolved into a reflexive, menacing brand of language policing.
We have been here before. Not long ago, readers were assessing the proposition from The New York Times that American history begins not in 1776 but in 1619 when the first Africans were bought to these shores in bondage. One intent of this proposal is to discourage any sense that disparities between blacks and whites are due to some kind of black inferiority. We are to keep front and center that all black problems today can be traced to the attitudes and structures that set in starting in 1619.
While McWhorter is not averse to looking at root causes for social ills, he points out that the fact-challenged 1619 Project doesn’t do much for actual people who want to survive a pandemic. Adams was merely advising good habits, which are more helpful, regardless of race, right now. He concludes:
One must think of the great majority of black people at times like this, and frankly, very few of them think of wise counsel in hard times as treachery or condescension.
Even during a pandemic, ideology never rests.
Read the entire article.