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 when 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.
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I can't imagine anything in their lives that would have considered "normal"--except that maligning level of stress that comes from being 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?
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