(By istorsvetlana_Shutterstock)

By Wayne Dawkins
Special to the AFRO

African Americans face life-or-death pandemic-related decisions over the next week or few months and must choose wisely. 

On Dec. 4, after interviewing Dr. Anthony Fauci, WEAA-FM host Kay Wise Whitehead, also known as Dr. Kaye, told her listeners that Black people are four times more likely than other Americans to test positive for COVID-19, and two times more likely to die from the organ-hollowing virus.

Yet, here’s this gut punch: four out of 10 African Americans polled by the Pew Research Center said it was unlikely that they would not accept the COVID-19 vaccine that is expected to be ready as early as next week. 

Too many Blacks remember or read about the Tuskegee experiments in which rural African Americans were allowed to die slow, untreated deaths from syphilis and other diseases. That horror occurred during the 1930s Jim Crow-era three generations ago, yet there are accusations of a real-time health betrayal: Latinx women rounded up in Georgia by ICE agents who received involuntary hysterectomies.

African Americans are disproportionately exposed to COVID-19 as service workers providing meals to shut-ins, or as first responders in the health, transportation or public safety field. They face a Hobson’s choice: risk illness or death because of close contact to the virus, or risk illness or death from taking a mysterious new antidote.

Tough choices. However, take the vaccine if you can get it.

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass ( D-Calif.) chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, acknowledged the bloc of African-American skepticism to the new vaccines on Sunday talk shows. Nevertheless, Bass suggested that Blacks take the injections.

Keenly aware of Black skepticism, former presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton promised to get injected with the vaccine together on television in order to encourage participation. 

It’s now up to the masses to take a calculated leap of faith. It makes no sense to be victimized twice; die or become sickened for being so close to the virus, or die or be sickened from doubt about accepting a cure.

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Last week in this space I urged readers to tell eligible voter family and friends to cast ballots in the Jan. 5, 2021 special election for both U.S. Senate seats from Georgia. Two Republican incumbents face Democratic challengers. Jon Ossoff is taking on senior Senator David Perdue and Raphael Warnock is challenging Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat by the governor to fill a vacancy. 

Republicans hold a 50-48 advantage before the election in three weeks. Sunday’s disgraceful antics by GOP candidates should convince people to run to the polls and adjust the math to 50 Republicans vs. 50 Democrats, plus Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker vote. 

So what happened? Perdue declined to debate Ossoff on TV, so the challenger faced an empty mic and made his case for office unchallenged. 

Meanwhile, Warnock did debate Loeffler, who said her qualification is her 100% support of the just-defeated 45th president. Loeffler, who with her spouse is worth $800 million, narrowly escaped charges of insider trading for dumping stock after learning about the emerging coronavirus epidemic at a briefing. 

Georgia voters who narrowly turned the Peach State blue for Biden-Harris should speak loudly again on Jan. 5.

The writer is a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.

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