Why Many Black Americans Changed Their Minds About Covid Shots

Of note, both the hesitancy and the means taken to overcome it:

By the time vaccines for the coronavirus were introduced late last year, the pandemic had taken two of Lucenia Williams Dunn’s close friends. Still, Ms. Dunn, the former mayor of Tuskegee, contemplated for months whether to be inoculated.

It was a complicated consideration, framed by the government’s botched response to the pandemic, its disproportionate toll on Black communities and an infamous 40-year government experiment with which her hometown is often associated.

“I thought about the vaccine most every day,” said Ms. Dunn, 78, who finally walked into a pharmacy this summer and rolled up her sleeve for a shot, convinced after weighing with her family and doctor the possible consequences of remaining unvaccinated.

“What people need to understand is some of the hesitancy is rooted in a horrible history, and for some, it’s truly a process of asking the right questions to get to a place of getting the vaccine.”

In the first months after the vaccine rollout, Black Americans were far less likely than white Americans to be vaccinated. In addition to the difficulty of obtaining shots in their communities, their hesitancy was fueled by a powerful combination of general mistrust of the government and medical institutions, and misinformation over the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

But a wave of pro-vaccine campaigns and a surge of virus hospitalizations and deaths this summer, mostly among the unvaccinated and caused by the highly contagious Delta variant, have narrowed the gap, experts say. So, too, have the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of a vaccine and new employer mandates. A steadfast resistance to vaccines in some white communities may also have contributed to the lessening disparity.

While gaps persist in some regions, by late September, according to the most recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a roughly equal share of Black, white and Hispanic adult populations — 70 percent of Black adults, 71 percent of white adults and 73 percent of Hispanic adults — had received at least one vaccine dose. A Pew study in late August revealed similar patterns. Federal data shows a larger racial gap, but that data is missing demographic information for many vaccine recipients.

Since May, when vaccines were widely available to a majority of adults across the country, monthly surveys by Kaiser have shown steady improvement in vaccination rates among Black Americans.

How the racial gap was narrowed — after months of disappointing turnout and limited access — is a testament to decisions made in many states to send familiar faces to knock on doors and dispel myths about the vaccines’ effectiveness, provide internet access to make appointments and offer transportation to vaccine sites.

In North Carolina, which requires vaccine providers to collect race and ethnicity data, hospital systems and community groups conducted door-to-door canvassing and hosted pop-up clinics at a theme park, a bus station and churches. Over the summer, the African American share of the vaccinated population began to more closely mirror the African American share of the general population.

In Mississippi, which has one of the country’s worst vaccination rates and began similar endeavors, 38 percent of people who have started the vaccine process are Black, a share that is roughly equal to the Black share of Mississippi’s population.

And in Alabama, public awareness campaigns and rides to vaccination sites helped transform dismal inoculation rates. A store owner and county commissioner in Panola, a tiny rural town near the Mississippi border, led the effort to vaccinate nearly all of her majority Black community.

Today, about 40 percent of Black Alabama residents — up from about 28 percent in late April — have had at least one dose, a feat in a state that has ranked among the lowest in overall vaccination rates and highest in per capita deaths from Covid-19. About 39 percent of white people in the state have had one dose, up from 31 percent in late April.

Health officials and community leaders say that those who remain unvaccinated have pointed to concerns about how quickly the vaccines were developed and what their long-term health effects might be, plus disinformation that they contain tracking devices or change people’s DNA. The damage wrought by the government-backed trials in Tuskegee, in which Black families were misled by health care professionals, also continues to play a role in some communities, helping to explain why some African Americans have still held out.

“It’s less about saying, ‘This racial ethnic group is more hesitant, more unwilling to get vaccinated,’ and more about saying, ‘You know, this group of people in this given area or this community doesn’t have the information or access they need to overcome their hesitancy,’” said Nelson Dunlap, chief of staff for the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

When the U.S. Public Health Service began what it called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” 600 Black men — 399 with syphilis and 201 without the disease — were told they would be treated for so-called bad blood in exchange for free medical exams, meals and burial insurance. In reality, treatment was withheld. Even after penicillin was discovered as an effective treatment, most did not receive the antibiotic.

The experiment began in 1932 and did not stop until 1972, and only after it was exposed in a news article. The surviving men and the heirs of those who had died were later awarded a settlement totaling about $10 million, and the exposure of the study itself eventually led to reforms in medical research. Still, the damage endured.

“Few families escaped the study. Everyone here knows someone who was in the study,” said Omar Neal, 64, a radio show host and former Tuskegee mayor who counts three relatives in the study and who wavered on a vaccine before finally getting one, his mind changed by the rising number of deaths. “And the betrayal — because that is what the study was — is often conjured whenever people are questioning something related to mistrusting medicine or science.”

Rueben C. Warren, director of the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University, said the study served as a real example in the long line of medical exploitation and neglect experienced by Black Americans, eroding trust in the government and health care systems.

“The questions being asked about the vaccine should be understood in the larger context of historic inequities in health care,” Dr. Warren said. “The hope, of course, is they finally decide to get the vaccine.”

A national campaign led by the Ad Council and Covid Collaborative, a coalition of experts, tackled the hesitation. This summer, a short-form documentary including descendants of the men in the Tuskegee study was added to the campaign.

When Deborah Riley Draper, who created the short-form documentary, interviewed descendants of the Tuskegee study, she was struck by how shrouded it was in myths and misconceptions, such as the false claim that the government had injected the men with syphilis.

“The descendants’ message was clear that African Americans are as much a part of public health as any other group and we need to fight for access and information,” she said.

In Macon County, Ala., which has a population of about 18,000 and is home to many descendants of the Tuskegee trials, about 45 percent of Black residents have received at least one vaccine dose. Community leaders, including those who are part of a task force that meets weekly, attribute the statistic, in part, to local outreach and education campaigns and numerous conversations about the difference between the Tuskegee study and the coronavirus vaccines.

For months, Martin Daniel, 53, and his wife, Trina Daniel, 49, resisted the vaccines, their uncertainty blamed in part on the study. Their nephew Cornelius Daniel, a dentist in Hampton, Ga., said he grew up hearing about the research from his uncle, and saw in his own family how the long-running deception had sown generational distrust of medical institutions.

Mr. Daniel, 31, said he overcame his own hesitation in the spring because the risks of working in patients’ mouths outweighed his concerns.

His uncle and aunt reconsidered their doubts more slowly, but over the summer, as the Delta variant led to a surge in hospitalizations across the South, the Daniels made vaccination appointments for mid-July. Before the date arrived, though, they and their two teenage children tested positive for the coronavirus.

On July 6, the couple, inseparable since meeting as students on the campus of Savannah State University, died about six hours apart. Their children are now being raised by Mr. Daniel and his wife, Melanie Daniel, 32.

“We truly believe the vaccine would have saved their lives,” Ms. Daniel said.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/13/us/black-americans-vaccine-tuskegee.html

Spokesman: Israel to deport dozens of African Hebrews

Strange story and history:

Dozens of members of a polygamous, vegan sect in Israel have received deportation orders from the government, the group’s spokesman said Monday, despite much of the community having received permanent residency under arrangements with Israel.

The community, which numbers around 3,000 people, is comprised of Black Americans whose founders moved to Israel in the 1960s and believe they are descendants of an ancient Israelite tribe. Most live in the southern desert town of Dimona.

Prince Immanuel Ben-Yehuda, spokesman for the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, said the Interior Ministry had given notice to at least 46 families that they must leave the country within 60 days, calling it a “shock to the system.”

The African Hebrew Israelites began arriving in Israel in 1969, following Ben Carter, a Chicago steelworker who renamed himself Ben Ammi Ben Israel and claimed to be God’s representative on earth.

But Israel wasn’t sure what to make of the newcomers, who arrived on tourist visas, adopted Hebrew names and a West African style of dress. The government was unsure whether they qualified for citizenship under the country’s “Law of Return,” which is granted to almost any Jew who requests it.

The Interior Ministry granted many members of the community temporary residency in 1992 and permanent residency status in 2003. Many members study in Israeli schools and serve in the military.

“For quite some time, we’ve had a number of members of the community with different levels of immigration status, some of us have full citizenship, some taken permanent residency, some have temporary residency, and some have no status whatsoever,” said Ben-Yehuda. He said the community has been working for years with Israeli authorities to sort out the legal status of those without permanent residency.

The Population and Immigration Authority said in a statement that in 2003, 1,200 African Hebrew Israelites were found eligible for residency, and that in the years afterward the office received other requests from people who were not members of the community.

“All those who were not included in the list of community members and didn’t meet the criteria received a negative reply and in effect are residing illegally in Israel for a long period and must leave according to the law,” the authority said in a statement. It added that those who had received deportation letters were entitled to appeal.

Ben-Yehuda said the community would appeal the decision. “We’re here because we chose to be here to build this country and give our energy to the improvement and the betterment of this nation, so it’s quite a bit disheartening in that respect,” he said.

Source: Spokesman: Israel to deport dozens of African Hebrews

White Americans Are Still Confused About Racism – Here’s “The Talk” We Need To Have | Citizenship and Social Justice

This is a really well thought out and argued piece by Jon Greenberg:

Growing up and now living in the predominately white city of Seattle, I’ve known and worked with countless White Americans. I have yet to meet one White American who has given or received “The Talk.”

You know, the one that primarily Black American families have to have with their children to keep them safe from the police – because of their race: “Keep your hands open and out in front of you, shut your mouth, be respectful, say ‘sir.’” The one you can now witness through this powerful video:

White Americans have the privilege to grow up without “The Talk,” but that doesn’t mean they should grow up without a talk.

Perhaps because too many White Americans never get one, they too often get race so wrong.

For one, a recent survey reveals that a startling number of White Americans – 55% – believe that they are the targets of discrimination. Other studies (here and here) have corroborated such high percentages. Important to note about this recent survey is that “a much smaller percentage” of those White Americans say that they actually experienced the discrimination.

Before you start blaming Trump supporters for these results, a pre-election poll of 16,000 Americans revealed that Clinton supporters, too, have some serious work to do. For example, 20% of Clinton supporters described Black Americans as “less intelligent” than White Americans.

Racism is a problem all across the board for White America, even in “progressive” places like Seattle.

Maybe this deep misunderstanding of racism explains why too many White Americans don’t lift a finger to stop it. Literally. Most White Americans – 67% – refuse to even click to share articles about race on social media.

We White Americans are long past due for a “Talk” of our own. I’ve even readied some talking points for you.

Before I lay them out, I’d like to note that I’m hardly the first to compile such a list.

However, given white peoples’ attitudes and inaction on racism, another article certainly can’t hurt and could even help. Compare my list to this one, this one, or this tasty one. (It will only help me make my point.)

It’s worth adding to this wealth of existing information because many White Americans still hold on to what they think are legitimate reasons to dismiss information about systemic racism against people of Color.

You may think such reasons are valid, too. You might believe that the evidence of systemic racism is “anecdotal,” argue that sources are “out of date,” or feel skeptical about information from op-eds or radical lefty publications.

So you should know that, for this one article, I’m sticking with numbers, not stories. Also know that, for the most part, I’m citing publications only from the last few years and from mainstream news publications, government or academic studies/data, or coverage of such studies/data from mainstream news publications. As much as possible, I’m staying clear of left-leaning sources like The Huffington Post, which initially covered the Trump campaign in its Entertainment section.

While reading, keep two key numbers from the Census in your head:

  • 62: the percentage of this country that is White American (not Latinx)
  • 13: the percentage of this country that is Black American

If access to institutional power were spread proportionally, 13% of Black Americans and 62% of White Americans would make up any given institution.

Key points:

  • “The Talk” for White Americans must include an honest discussion about education. The narrative of our educational system as leveler of the playing field doesn’t hold up with a racial lens.
  • “The Talk” for White Americans must include an honest discussion about employment and poverty. The narrative of hard work leading to riches doesn’t hold up with a racial lens.
  • “The Talk” for White Americans must include an honest discussion of a system that, according to Ava DuVernay, evolved from slavery. The narrative of our system as a “justice” system doesn’t hold up with a racial lens.
  • “The Talk” for White Americans must include an honest discussion about this country as a meritocracy. That narrative of education as a pathway to social mobility doesn’t hold up with a racial lens.
  • “The Talk” for White Americans must include an honest discussion about housing discrimination – past and present. The narrative of housing as part of the American dream doesn’t hold up with a racial lens.
  • “The Talk” for White Americans must include an honest discussion about health care. The narrative of doctors fulfilling their Hippocratic Oath doesn’t hold up with a racial lens.
  • “The Talk” for White Americans must include an honest discussion about the media we consume. With a racial lens, the narratives of some people barely exist.

via White Americans Are Still Confused About Racism – Here’s “The Talk” We Need To Have | Citizenship and Social Justice

Shootings raise unanswered life-or-death question for black men in America: Neil Macdonald

Good column by Macdonald:

In the racially electrified fog of fear and rage following the events in Dallas Thursday, one question remains conspicuously unanswered: If you are a black man in America, how are you supposed to cope?

President Barack Obama has no real answer, nor do the members of Congress who bowed their heads in memory of the slain Dallas police officers, nor does Dallas’s anguished police chief, a black man himself.

The deadly consequences of carrying while black
#SayHisName: Americans react to videos of police killings
The only advice black Americans seem to get is to respectfully submit when some cop calls them out on the street, or looms at the door of their car, or shows up at their home, no matter how terrified they may be.

‘Comply, comply, comply’

For heaven’s sake, don’t give the officer any lip, or try to run away, even if you aren’t guilty of anything, and no matter how abusive the cop may become.

Because if you are black, that policeman is far more likely to gun you down, or choke you to death, or Taser you, or beat you into a coma.

“Comply, comply, comply,” Philando Castile’s mother says she used to tell him. “Comply — that’s the key thing in order to try to survive being stopped by the police.”

‘When is it going to stop?’: Philando Castile’s family speaks out1:10

Perhaps Alton Sterling’s parents gave him the same counsel. It’s as common for black parents to have that talk with their kids as it is for white parents to warn about talking to strangers.

But of course supine compliance does not guarantee survival at the hands of police if you are black in America (or, to be honest, if you are Indigenous in some parts of Canada, but that’s a separate discussion).

Philando Castile was evidently complying with the Minnesota policeman who’d pulled him over for a broken tail light this week when that policeman opened fire through the driver’s window. The police force has not said otherwise.

And a day earlier, Alton Sterling was pinned down, hands free of weapons, when two Louisiana cops shot him in the back and chest.
After the Castile killing, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton stated the obvious: “Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver and the passengers, were white? I don’t think it would have …”

There is simply no question that your race can determine whether you live or die at the hands of police in America. If you are black, you are several times more likely to be killed.

Benefit of the tiniest doubt

And, chances are, your killer will walk away, unpunished, and likely consoled by his fellow officers for having had to go through such trauma.

Source: Shootings raise unanswered life-or-death question for black men in America: Neil Macdonald – Politics – CBC News