Save My Black Male Children From... Swine Flu?

You know that Michael Jackson is somewhere feeling really vindicated. He's shaking his fist and saying, "Now everybody doesn't think I'm totally nuts for wearing a surgical mask all the time!"

Not that a mask is really going to save anybody from swine flu. I'm sure hand washing makes a much bigger difference than wearing a mask.

I'll admit, I'm still trying to figure out where this swine flu came from. I was not 100% tuned into the news until last night, so when I heard the phrase "swine flu" on the radio playing in the background, I thought, "Oh, pigs are getting sick? Good thing I'm a vegetarian!"

I figured it was a disease that you got if you live on a farm, butcher hogs or like to munch on bacon. It took a little bit for it to register that this was a disease that's jumped from pigs to humans.

Of course, the question is, now that we've got it, what do we do about it? In a crap economy with horrible access to health care and insurance co-pays through the roof, are folks really going to go to the doctor if they come down with the flu? I don't know how much the average American is going to worry about swine flu when they are getting laid off left and right, getting harassed by creditors and worrying about keeping food on the table.

Come to think of it, I'll bet you that more black men got shot across America over the weekend then died in Mexico due to swine flu, but, uh, THAT is not a world health crisis, is it? Black men getting shot is not considered an epidemic. Nobody's going, "OMG, we MUST do something! We have to stop this epidemic of violence against black males!"

Maybe it has something to do with folks only caring if they think it's going to affect them. Swine flu can get you if the guy next to you at the corner sneezes on you. And, if you're not black and born by happenstance into a low-income area with failing schools, no bookstores, no banks (just currency exchanges), limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, stray dogs roaming all around, a lack of park space to play in and gangs who recruit you as young as 2nd grade... gosh, if that's not your circumstance, why care about that?

Go ahead and say it: Los Angelista, you don't live in the hood. Your kids are nerds. They do baseball and kung fu, obsess about comic books and watch the History Channel non-stop.

And that's right, they do. They are two whip smart, confident, accomplished and handsome as I don't know what boys. But don't think I'm not thinking every day about how my boys are going to be in middle school one day soon, and if I'm living in America, they will be targets, whether I like it or not. I will worry every single time they walk out of the house about someone else's child who grew up in those circumstances rolling up to my boys and asking, "Hey fool, what's your set?"

Too much thinking for you? You want to just go back to freaking out about swine flu, don't you?

OK, I will go back to worrying about how to protect my black male children from swine flu. I will spray their backpacks with Lysol and put a thick coating of hand sanitizer on them the minute they get home from school.

Maybe I'll even get them a face mask so Michael Jackson doesn't have to be the only black man in America wearing one.


Anonymous said…
I remember one of Pryor's classic bits about drugs...when white suburban kids started (like they weren't always, but when it got the publicity) on the crack, then it was 'epidemic.'

"Next time, maybe when you see a brother in trouble, you'll help." - Pryor

Anyway, they didn't get us sufficiently freaked out with Bird Flu and West Nile Virus. After this passes, look out for the Fish Flu. I don't even want to think about how that is going to be contracted.
Ms Angela said…
Irony--while I was reading your post, I was listening to Curtis Mayfield singing "If there's a hell below, we're all gonna go." Well, I think we create our own hell, personally. My old Black Muslim friends are probably chuckling--"See, I told y'all to stay away from that pork! Black folks need get away from the swine!"

Not just black folks, obviously.

Liz, you probably will get one of those "you're too militant" emails. Just forward them to me. I had emergency hernia repair surgery last Friday, and I feel like being "militant" before the Percocet kicks in. :)
Yea, why is the the West Side the only place I can find a decent bookstore? You're right about the number of deaths that occured this weekend from being a Black male versus the number of deaths from "swine flu." Aside from hearing about it daily on the news, I am really fazed by this "pandemic." LOL @ MJ having a newly developed sense of community to the world at large.
Call Family said…
I appreciate your comments about this in perspective of what goes on day to day with black men and violence. The media hype really gets people freaked out about what they want us to freak out about. It's all a bandwagon thing...think I learned that in 10th grade social studies.
Jameil said…
i just need people to stop being so nasty! keep your germs to YOURSELF!! i was glad to know swine flu isn't passed through food. that made me exceedingly glad the vegetarians and muslims wouldn't have another thing to lord over us pork-eaters! you know how some of y'all veggies are! ahh vindication in the form of a sneeze.
Liz Dwyer said…
Anonymous,There's some crazy disease you can get from fish now. I can't remember what it's called, but if you eat certain fish, you can get paralyzed... or at least I think that's what I heard about it. I can't quite remember.

Yeah, America has historically been very much a nation steeped in the attitude of, "Go on and let those negros destroy themselves!" but that only gives rise to the destruction of us all.

Angela,You know I became a vegetarian because of taunting by an NOI guy, right? LOL! So sorry to hear about the hernia repair surgery. I've heard that Percocet is some powerful stuff so be careful! Maybe I should forward the "you're a racist black militant emails to you after you've taken it!" Hee!

Catcher,Well look who has a blogger ID now! Good for you! :) As far as I know there are no bookstores from the student one at USC all the way down to the Lakewood Mall. There's one in Plaza Mexico in Lynwood and then the ones in Leimert Park/Baldwin Hills. That's a serious shame when the only access to books is at Rite Aid or the 99 Cent Store.

Call Family,The media hype makes it tough to figure out what we really need to do because they are too busy freaking everybody out saying, "What are you gonna do if your kid's school closes for a week but you still have to go to work? Set up your childcare now!" I mean, I've had the flu like three times this winter, even though I got a flu shot. So was one of those instances swine flu? I have no idea! In the meantime, when I look at the homicide blurbs on the news, they just pile up, week after week.

Jameil,SO many people do not wash their hands after leaving the bathroom, or else they just rinse them with water. Uh, the water isn't doing anything for you, honey! Just nasty! And yeah, it is probably a good thing that it's not passed through food because a whole LOT of black folks would have it right now, with all the ribs, bacon and pig feet consumption! LOL!
nick said…
"More black men got shot across America over the weekend than died in Mexico due to swine flu". Absolutely, but as you say the media love their scare-you-rigid horror stories. The UK media are totally obessed with swine flu. It's infected how many so far -about 1500? And remind me of the total world population again....

As you say, Liz, instead of shitting ourselves over some utterly remote flu risk, how about dealing with the everyday problems that so many ordinary folk have to struggle with? But foreclosures and debt are stale news, are't they?
Liz Dwyer said…
Nick,I was watching MSNBC this morning and the panicked, hyped reporting was really just over the top. It seems like the reporters even speak more rapidly to incite fear.

What would it even look like if everyday problems were given the attention they deserve?
Daniel said…
Los Angelista,
I can’t “Touch This” (Thanks Hammer!). Reasons are the extremely volatile nature of such discussions and most people’s inability to stay somewhat rational about the whole ugly mess.
Your boys have little chance of having real harm come to them by white people (or about as much as I do, really). This isn’t 1853, 1953 or even 1963. Their greatest real physical/circumstantial threats will come from other black males. Ask your husband about that. Look at the statistics on where the violent crime will come from for them. What will your options really be? Removal from the areas of potential threat? How will you answer their questions about this subject and the choices you make for them? Los Angelista, I’d be highly interested to know exactly what you are going to instruct them to do, how to handle situations with other “black males” (your words here).

White people cannot touch this issue, because it becomes the same morass of blaming, excusing and cries of “racism” to directly confront the internal problems of what passes for ‘black communities’ today.
I wish I had some answers. But this set of problems is so rooted in ugly history, past oppression, residual bad feelings and corrosive situations, that it may realistically never be solved. Like almost all human problems.

About the “pandemic”, well, one day (probably soon) it WILL get us. This subject and its reality are well known in the medical/scientific community and have been extensively written about. The numbers of ‘the one’ that gets us will grow by huge exponential numbers very rapidly. That’s the difficult part, it will start small, many may not take it as a real threat, until those numbers explode and then it’s too late for many.Viral infectious diseases can be so dangerous.

Ah, sometimes I just LOVE this place!
Shiona said…
If you think MSNBC was bad CNN is worse. I have to have that on the TV at work. I was totally turned off and changed the channels to the playoffs and baseball. Who wants to look at sick people while eating. Luckily we only have chicken in our restuarant or nobody would have shown up.
BZ said…
Well said, sis. They sell hand sanitizer in little bottles attached to caribeaners. They're handy to attach to backpacks and such (so they could take it to school with them). Hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of communicable disease. Masks work more often in cases of respiratory infection, particularly for the immunosuppressed (ex. HIV patients, patients on chemotherapy, etc. who are particularly succeptible to airborne pathogens).

Of course I love the take on the circumstances! Irony indeed!
Anonymous said…
Liz - Anonymous comment #1 is actually the male half of CallFamily, I just don't know her login for blogspot. Yes, there's a toxin contained in some tropical fish that causes a reversal of temperature sensation, cold feels hot and hot feels cold, and it is potentially fatal. Here's a link:

I also wanted to add that I think the hype surrounding this swine flu has a lot to do with the fact that rich people can get it too. If you watched SiCKO, Moore assesses that roughly 18,000 people a year die from being either uninsured or underinsured. If that isn't an epidemic I don't know what is. Why do we not fix this problem? Mostly because those 18,000 dead weren't people that "count" in our society (i.e. they don't make political contributions). Poor people don't mean shit. Swine flu, on the other hand...well, Richie Rich can't take his vacation in Acapulco now, so it's important that we get that situation corrected.
These illnesses are not accidents. I really think a certain group of people are being made test subjects for biological warfare and we really need to be prepared. Washing our hands is necessary. N95 masks keep out a lot of these viruses. We all need disaster readiness kits: canned goods, water, first aid kit, etc
Liz Dwyer said…
I did NOT forget about y'all... I'll reply in a bit! I have a LOT of thoughts!
Anonymous said…
I find the hype on the Swine Flu to be so pathetic. A bit of statistics shows that about 30,000 people every year die from the normal flu, and they estimate that 71,000 people die from medical mistakes every year (means it is safer to be uninsured).
Daniel said…
Los Angelista,
I can’t help myself here. All this ‘death’ talk … and I’m laughing now. ‘Cause I’m thinkin’ now of the ONLY people that aren’t about to die!
You know those Botox’ed, surgically stretched, tucked, tightened, totally blond hair, 68 year old Beverly Hills ladies, driving with the top down in the Convert. Mercedes on the Ventura Hwy..
“I ain’t EVER getting OLD!”
“I’m living FOREVER!”
Liz Dwyer said…
Daniel,"Their greatest real physical/circumstantial threats will come from other black males." -- unfortunately, this is true on some levels, but there is also the level of Latino on black violence increasing exponentially here in LA. I think white people HAVE to be involved in the solutions to these problems because it is institutionalized, historically racist policies that create the environments that kids who grow up believing standing on the corner is the way to go. Even with rap music today, not one record label is owned by black artists, so they produce what will sell to white males... even if the imagery destroys their own communities. All that to say, there is a responsibility on all sides. There has to be.

So, what to do? Do I move outta LA? Do I go retreat to somewhere out in the boonies, like, heaven forbid, Valencia? (Where I think I would die, by the way.) I don't know the solution yet.

Shiona,I heard that Egypt is ordering the slaughter of all pigs as the result of swine flu. I don't know if that'll make a difference since it's jumped to people now. Oh, and I saw the Colbert Report last night and he had me DYING making fun of the Swine Flu hype. The reporters are just over the top.

BZ,I am always on my kids all the time about hand washing... that is nothing new, because I know schools are little incubators for germs. I am blessed that my boys are as healthy as they are, because when I was a teacher, I was ALWAYS sick!

Anonymous,See, I know I wasn't imagining something you can get from fish these days. Gosh, we are just making a whole host of weird toxins, viruses these days. I'm convinced it's environmental on some levels. It has to be. I think you're right about why Swine Flu is getting so much hype. I haven't seen Sicko but I need to. Those numbers of people who die are insane in the a nation that supposedly is the leader of the "free world".

Faith,It definitely could be. I would NOT be surprised if there are bio-terror tests being done on folks all the time. I mean, SARS bursts on the scene, and now it's gone. Swine Flu just suddenly erupts... yeah, it's weird. At least I do have a disaster kit. That's a good thing.

Anonymous,I know of two circumstances where relatives of relatives have died this year from medical mistakes. I have SERIOUS phobias about going to the doctor, but when I see those stats, it makes me think that maybe it's not so bad that I don't go too often.

Daniel,Oh yes, I totally know the type. 500 years from now, archeologists will exhume bodies from LA and wonder at the lack of decomposition.

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