By Marc W. Polite
Lived experience can be a catalyst to action. While this is true on an individual level, the collective experiences of a moment in time can also play a factor in what one decides to do in response. The Covid-19 pandemic which we are still living through has impacted the lives of everyone.
After living through the harrowing reality of being a native New Yorker at the time when the city was the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. in March/April of 2020, seeing a possible light at the end of the tunnel was enough to keep many of us holding on. Through the reports of overflowing emergency rooms, and wailing ambulances all times during the day and night, this was no easy task.
The long lines outside of the grocery store just to get in to purchase necessaries, and the shortages are not such a distant memory for me. People like myself who were fortunate enough to continue to work from home had a lot more time to read and research about the efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control. This is when I started reading about the international effort to create vaccines. In following the news about vaccine developments from reputable sources, I made the decision to get the vaccine as soon as it became available to me. I read about the possible side effects and decided that getting the shot would be far preferable to coming into contact with the virus.
I decided to get the covid-19 vaccine because after living through the first and second wave in the Northeast, it was the most sensible thing to do to protect myself as well as those around me. 2020 was an emotionally devastating year, and the havoc wrought by Covid-19 on the Black community in specific was no small part of my decision. It is now public knowledge that Americans have lost a year off of their life expectancy due to the impact of the pandemic. Black people as a group already had the lowest life expectancy of all Americans, but Black men, in particular, have lost three years off of our life expectancy in the aggregate due to the events of last year. With so many structural realities working against the quality and length of my life, why would I not act to at least mitigate one factor that was available to everyone? I also saw no point in holding out, risking long COVID, which also comes with additional health care conditions.
Many of us are continuing to deal with the fallout from the initial impact of the pandemic. As we slowly, return to our lives after so much loss, the focus should be on protecting ourselves and others. This means taking steps towards a collective solution, which starts with informed, individual action. As long as this pandemic situation persists, our community needs to be educated about the actual ongoing threat, and the measures that we can take to protect ourselves.
To learn more about how COVID-19 has affected Black communities go to the National Black Cultural Information Trust. They have information and resources that help us protect our families and communities.