No, Black people, there is no white supremacist scheme behind the COVID vaccine

OPINION: If white supremacy has a commission deciding anything around COVID-19, they’re saying how do we keep Black people from wanting the vaccine? If that’s the case, they’re doing a great job.

Sometimes when I think about white supremacy I think about that scene from The Godfather where all the mob bosses are sitting around a big table in a secluded room mapping out the future of their industry as if they’re the Illuminati shaping the world. This is where one of the mob bosses makes an infamous and unforgettable speech in favor of selling drugs to Black people — “I want to control it as a business,” he says, “to keep it respectable. I don’t want it near schools. I don’t want it sold to children … keep the traffic in the dark people, the colored. They’re animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.”

He represents a decision that will change millions of Black lives, a decision that rests on both a racist disregard for Black lives and a capitalist imperative to make money no matter the damage to others. I’ve been thinking of that scene lately because I feel like many Black people believe white supremacy flows from specific tables of power like that — they may be right — and at some point a scene like that took place but instead of saying let’s give cocaine and heroin to Black people, they decided to give a COVID-19 vaccine to the dark people, the colored, to let them lose their souls. And thus many Black people said I won’t take that vaccine.

I won’t be fooled by their racism. As if the government and the medical community said let’s make a vaccine just for them — as if the government and the medical community are efficient and organized enough to deliver one sort of vaccine to white people and a different one to Black people and keep all this a secret as millions of vaccinations happen and the media watches closely. I have a cousin I love who flat out refuses to get the vaccine because “it’s part of population control.”

Marilyn Hallom gets a COVID-19 vaccine from Amanda Kohler-Gopen at the It’s Official Barbershop in the West Englewood neighborhood on June 05, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

I have heard Black people who refuse the vaccine tell me they don’t trust the government, which is fair, they don’t trust doctors (uh, OK) they’d rather just take Vitamin C (What?!) and they don’t believe COVID is real — the reasons that people believe conspiracy theories, because they make them feel powerful and smart as they seem to overstand reality. But the conspiracy theory around the COVID-19 vaccine is one that is killing us — if white supremacy has a commission deciding anything around the virus and the vaccine, they’re saying how do we keep Black people from wanting the vaccine? If that’s the case, they’re doing a great job.

The rise of the delta variant marks a new, dangerous chapter in the war against COVID. A war that has hit Black people much harder than white people. We need to take this seriously — there’s nothing white supremacy enjoys more than watching Black people die needlessly. COVID-19 is just the newest reason. Black people have been dying of the virus more than almost any other group. According to the CDC, Black Americans have the second-highest mortality rate. We’re dying from COVID-19 twice as much as white people.

The reasons why Black people are dying more aren’t scientific, they’re socially constructed. Those reasons include (1) we constitute a large share of essential workers who can’t help coming into contact with the virus and (2) many of us live in dwellings where there’s a large number of people making it harder to socially distance or avoid the infected and (3) many of us have little or no access to health care and pre-existing health conditions that make us more susceptible to dying from COVID.

We have lost elders and fathers and mothers and children and yet despite all those tragic Black COVID deaths, our vaccination rate lags behind other groups. As of July 2021, the CDC knew the race of 58% of vaccinated people and within that group, only 9% were Black. All over the country, Black people are vaccinated below their share of the population. For example, in Washington D.C., Black people got 43% of the vaccinations despite getting 56% of the COVID cases and having 71% of deaths. White supremacy loves nothing more than seeing Black people have a high rate of COVID019 death and a low rate of vaccinations and we are giving them exactly what they want.

A vaccine information sheet is seen as Andrea Moore and Alma Penn, mother and daughter, hold hands while awaiting their COVID-19 vaccine in the gymnasium at Whitney M. Young Elementary School on April 2, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

I know the vaccination conversation is so divisive and politicized that people who think COVID is a myth or think the vaccine is meant to hurt us would probably not read this far. They would probably be repelled by me believing that COVID is real and accepting statistics from the CDC — because the government is the devil. They’ve had no problem spending the COVID relief checks that the government sent them but that’s another conversation.

They may point to the horrific Tuskeegee syphilis experiment as evidence that the government is not to be believed —conveniently skipping over the fact that in that monstrous event researchers kept the cure to syphilis away from a small group of people to study the long-term impact. Yes, the government has done racist things and will continue to do racist things, but Black people are dying disproportionately because they’re unvaccinated. Not because they’re vaccinated.

Disbelieving science doesn’t make you smarter than scientists. Saying we don’t know the long-term impact of the vaccine is frankly a cop-out. What we don’t know is the long-term impact of having COVID. I wish I could go to The Meeting; the vaunted gathering Black people talk about where we come together and decide things, and take the stage and beg us to please, please, please, please — imagine me like early James Brown on my knees intoning please — take the vaccine and give us the best chance of lowering our frightening COVID mortality rate.

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been like a harrowing horror film. I live in Brooklyn just a block away from a hospital and for months there was a long trailer parked beside the hospital. And then there were two trailers. Then there were three. That’s when I realized those trailers were housing the bodies of the dead because people were dying so fast the hospital and the morgue could not keep up. And I’m sure the majority of the bodies in those trailers were Black.

I never thought we’d get to the end of the horror movie that is life during COVID and they’d release a vaccine and my people would come up with reasons to not take it. My people are survivors. Let’s survive this thing. My people also know the white man’s ice is colder — he’s taking the COVID vaccine (unless he’s a MAGA maniac). Are you telling me we’ll straighten our hair to look like him and we’ll code-switch our voices to get his money but we won’t take a vaccine like him to survive a plague? I can’t.  

Touré is the host of the podcasts Toure Show and Democracyish and the podcast docuseries Who Was Prince? He is also the author of six books.

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