When the stock market crashed in 1929, some investors flung themselves out of the windows of New York and Chicago skyscrapers. It’s doubtful blacks were among them since few, if any, blacks had skin in that big con game.
Fast forward to 2014 or 15 when a young black stockbroker I’m acquainted with gleefully told me the story of how he walked into his office at Merrill Lynch one Monday morning after the Dow Jones had taken a precipitous nosedive due to some bad news from over the weekend, and all of his colleagues were so glum one would have thought that the world was about to come to an end. He couldn’t resist it; as payback for all of the subtle racist digs he’d been forced to endure over the years he said with a big grin, “What’s the matter … you guys have never had your lights turned off?”
My young friend had come up hard in East Cleveland. But due to his razor-sharp mind, a mother who cared deeply and did all she could for him in spite of her reduced financial circumstances, and a school guidance counselor who really gave a damn, he managed to get a first-class education that opened up a world of wealth and privilege that his Shaw High School classmates could hardly imagine. But he’s never forgotten where he came from and all of the baloney sandwiches he had to eat as a child.
My point is this: Times are about to get hard. How hard? As hard as Japanese arithmetic … hard as a plate full of neck bones … harder than Pinocchio’s pecker. And some black folks are just waiting to say, “Welcome to my world, you privileged-assed white pussies.”
At the onset of the virus, a rumor quickly spread that black folks couldn’t contract Covid-19; of course that’s completely false. But there is a body of beliefs that since American blacks are descended from Africans who survived the dreaded Middle Passage (where only the strongest survived) we’ve been passed down immunities against a wide variety of pathogens that decimate weaker folk.
Couple these beliefs with the fact that countries of the Caribbean (and some African nations) are experiencing much lower rates of infection and it’s easy to understand how such myths develop. Fact is, the disparity in numbers could be something as simple as fewer people being tested in these locales, or less visitors from other countries.
But the difference between how blacks and whites will respond to the hard times is not a myth. When you’ve been raised on the killing floor, when you’ve had to do more with less, make something out of nothing, when your forebears had to pick shit with the crows during the dark days of Jim Crow, the coming cataclysm we’re about to get hit with ain’t nothin’. We black folks have endured worse.
But payback truly is a bitch. Since Jim Crow a goodly number of whites have made it their sworn duty to keep black folks “in their place.” Any social safety net, such as universal healthcare, that virtually every other industrialized nation has codified as a right, had been fought against tooth and nail simply because it might benefit blacks as a byproduct, when the truth is, poor whites would benefit from such programs more than any other group.
But indeed, these haters were able to put their man in the White House in 2016 and now they’re going to have to live with the results of their foolishness as per capita more Americans are going to die than citizens of any other country, and our financial recovery will be slower and more torturous than countries with more homogeneous populations.
It was Founding Father (and slave holder as well as slave lover) Thomas Jefferson who once said, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: [and] that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Could this be the wake-up call?