by Kenny Anderson
From the beginning being the first humans on this planet our original ancient African Ancestors had to deal with viruses interacting with nature. When it comes to pathogens, viruses, and diseases nature is always creating them; since 1970 more than 1,500 new pathogens have been discovered.
These pandemics and epidemics are sparked either by the re-emergence of pathogens that have been familiar for a long time, but now threaten new, immunologically vulnerable populations, or are newly-emerging ones. They come in a daunting array of species of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
Some of these communicable viruses and diseases are facilitated by oppression, poverty, and ill-health; some are caused by man-made habitat destruction and global warming; some are borne in contaminated water or food; some others are carried in the air we breathe and by human touch.
The emerging pandemics and epidemics are coming from animals; this is a burgeoning threat, because animals are intensively farmed, transported for trade and kept in close contact with other species and humans in market places.
What we have to accept and understand is the uncertainty of life and the unpredictable power of nature including its ability to create new infectious threats to human health that emerge often without warning like being hit with a viral sucker punch.
Deadly U.S. Spanish Flu Pandemic
Also Black folks we need to know that a virus pandemic like the coronavirus COVID-19 is nothing new to the U.S. as Malcolm X once said that “the study of history rewards all research.”
History shows that in 1918 the U.S. was hit with a deadly Influenza Pandemic ‘Spanish Flu’, this flu afflicted over 25 percent of the U.S. population and killed over 675,000 people. In one year, the average life expectancy in the United States dropped by 12 years.
The Spanish Flu pandemic swept the world from January 1918 to December 1920 killed an estimated 50 to 80 million people. One fifth of the world's population was attacked by this deadly virus.
Within months it had killed more people than any other illness in recorded history. The Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus, the second was the swine flu in 2009.
Black folks it’s interesting, but not surprising that the overwhelming majority of us know nothing about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic though we were hit the hardest by pneumonia deaths from it!
Seemingly there’s an ignorance of history that the influenza pandemic of 1918 has been overlooked by most of us who post on Facebook.
Blacks and the Spanish Flu Pandemic
When the 1918 influenza epidemic began its deadly tour across the United States, Blacks were already beset by racism caused major public health, medical, and socioeconomic problems that shaped how they experienced the epidemic and how the epidemic affected them.
By 1918, medical and public health reports had documented that Black folks had lower rates from the Spanish Flu pandemic than whites. Though Blacks were less susceptible to this influenza, however if they contracted it they died more frequently than whites because of their deprived social conditions and their susceptibility to ‘pneumonia’.
The great scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois contended the higher rates of pneumonia for Blacks was due to racial health disparities that reflected racist socioeconomic degradation, not racial susceptibilities; he stated “poor health is not a Negro affair, but an index of social condition.”
Learning Lessons from the Spanish Flu Pandemic
As Black folks what should we learn from the Spanish Flu pandemic? First is, we were more prone to dying from pneumonia when we contracted the Spanish Flu. This is not surprising, studies show that upper respiratory diseases was the number #1 cause of death for our enslaved Ancestors.
Indeed slavery stress trauma epigenetically compromised our lung genes. We know the coronavirus ‘COVID-19’ attacks your lungs and its worst impact is it causes death ‘pneumonia lung collapse’.
Yes Black folks we are more vulnerable of dying from ‘COVID-19’ due to slavery weakened lung genetic predispositions, chronic stress that causes inflammation to the lungs, and chronic diseases that compromises lung functioning. Currently Blacks lead the U.S. in respiratory diseases and die more from pneumonia.
Black Self-Determination and the Spanish Flu Pandemic
Although during the Spanish Flu pandemic Black folks faced racism, Jim Crow segregation, the Klan, shortage of resources, and a lack of health-care facilities, our folks mobilized themselves to provide relief activities.
In many cities Black women went into the homes of Black influenza victims to provide care and clean homes. Black women who were home economics teachers volunteered to cook at food centers, schools, hospitals, and nurseries.
Across the country Black folks assumed the primary responsibility for providing care for each other stricken by the Spanish Flu; they clearly understood that their health was not a priority of the American government.
In 1918 Black folks faced the Spanish Flu pandemic being on the bottom socioeconomically degraded; aint shit changed still today we face the COVID-19’ pandemic in last place with too many of us sick and suffering from socioeconomic degradation.
The Spanish Flu pandemic was just over 100 years ago, now in 2020 we as Black folks face the coronavirus ‘COVID-19’ pandemic, do we have any internal self-reliant health contingency plans to address this new pandemic?
As Black folks if the COVID-19 virus disease continues to spread and we are more vulnerable to die from it because of our compromised health due to suffering ‘super-significantly’ more from chronic diseases, so what are we going to do every day other than just gossip, worry, panic, and spew conspiracy theories?
Do we have any other possibilities other than praying, hoping, and waiting? Is our only plan to stay at home and maybe get a $1,200 Trump coronavirus check? Does our organizations (Urban League, NAACP, NOI, Churches, etc.) have alternative relief plans?
Right now where I live I don’t see hospitals doing much for Black folks who’ve contacted the mild form of the coronavirus other than sending them home to stay indoors and take a Tylenol.
Since we have to deal with the reality of social distancing, how do we best use social media (Facebook, Zoom) conference calls, etc. to provide immune boosting health literacy, stress management, and direction?
If push comes to shove and we have to go in the homes of our family members, relatives, and friends who’ve contacted the coronavirus to assist or save them shouldn’t we be buying some hazmat suits ($62) and training ourselves of how to use this protective suit? Or is it going to be every Black person for themselves and God bless us all?
We need to really think about contingency relief efforts that includes tapping into the spirit of Sankofa, identifying historical prescriptions, practicing the 7 Principles of Kwanza, applying the healing insights of Dr. Sebi, Dr. Laila Afrika and other local healer leaders of how we are going to self-manage the coronavirus pandemic.
If we don’t try to manage the coronavirus, who will? Talk to me!