Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Rep. Bobby Rush and other House Energy and Commerce Committee members during a hearing on the coronavirus that “institutional racism,” yes indeed, has contributed to the disproportional number of COVID-19 cases seen in black communities versus other ethnic demographics in the United States.
Institutional racism? Talk about stoking fires.
How does the virus know?
Anyhow, what a lucky coincidence these two, Fauci and Rush, were able to meet on such a widely watched platform. What a win-win for both. What a one-hand-washing-the-other type of moment — given their collaborative political fights for widespread contact tracing in America, that is. Oh, you didn’t know?
First came Rush’s question: Dr. Fauci, is it true — it is true, isn’t it? — that “institutional racism” is at the heart of the coronavirus statistics plaguing black communities, oops, Black communities, in this country?
Fauci’s reply: “Well, I mean, obviously the African American community has suffered from racism for a very, very long period of time. I cannot imagine that that [institutional racism] has not contributed to the conditions that they find themselves in economically and otherwise. So the answer, congressman, is yes.”
And away went the headlines, fueling the next Black Lives Matter-slash-anarchist statue-toppling event, no doubt.
(A better headline, by the way, from that whole hearing might have been: Fauci, Where’s Your Mask? Part-time wearing does not a full-time protection make.) But it was the racism angle that captured media imaginations — and it’s curious, given the curious aspect of such a curious question even being asked.
Yes, recent research showed almost a quarter of confirmed coronavirus cases in this country hail from the black community, and that’s disproportionate given the black community makes up just over 12% of the U.S. population. But a host of reasons could account for these stats — for example, perhaps this population is more willing to get tests; or perhaps this segment has been targeted for tests. To throw a racist card so quickly — and pick up a racist card just as quickly — is odd.
Or is it?
Rush, after all, is the guy who introduced H.R. 6666, the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act, setting the stage for one of government’s best and biggest tools for surveilling and tracking American citizens, using the virus as both jumping point and justification. Interestingly enough, Rush is also a co-founder of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers and tweeted, back in December: “50 years ago today, my friend & fellow founder of the Illinois Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, was assassinated by the Chicago Police Department while sleeping in his West Side apartment. However, you can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot kill a revolution.”
Viva la revolucion! The fight against police must go on. And for Rush, it has.
“Bobby Rush likens Chicago police union to KKK,” ran one headline from The Hill earlier this month.
In an interview with Politico, Rush explained: “The number one cause that prevents police accountability, that promotes police corruption, that protects police lawlessness, is a culprit called the Fraternal Order of Police. They’re the organized guardians of continuous police lawlessness, of police murder and police brutality. The Chicago Order of Police is the most rabid, racist body of criminal lawlessness by police in the land. It stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ku Klux Klan then and the Ku Klux Klan now.”
He also added the police union and the KKK were like “kissing, hugging and law-breaking cousins.”
Meanwhile, Fauci is the guy — one of the guys — who’s been insisting on the far and wide spread of contact tracing as a condition of opening the country for business again.
“Good identification, isolation and contact tracing will determine whether you can continue to go forward as you try to reopen America,” Fauci said in mid-May, KJRH Channel 2 in Tulsa reported.
And this, a couple weeks later, from WBAL-TV 11 in Baltimore: “Anthony Fauci says a second wave of the coronavirus can be avoided if the United States can improve testing and contact tracing.”
And then the two come together in COVID-19 conversation on Capitol Hill, talking about the inherent racism of the country and how that inherent racism has impacted coronavirus infections in the black community.
It’s good to have friends in high places.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.