When the Global North Catches a Cold, it Needs to Cover its Mouth

Worrying about Africa

By Doyinsola Oladipo, A2018

“My dearest Doyinsola, this is Alhaji and Alhaja from Lagos, Nigeria. We want to know your welfare now that Coronavirus is all over the world. Please adhere to the stay at home instructions issued by your government. We are praying for you and remain sincerely yours.” 

It was 10:30 a.m. and I was on my way to whip up some breakfast. I just completed my morning routine which primarily involves reading 100 or so affirmations and scrolling on Instagram for about an hour. I smiled at the formality of my great aunt and uncle’s Whatsapp text, assured them I was staying safe, and got to cooking. 

When I sat down to enjoy my favorite combination of fried plantain, eggs, and a quarter of an avocado, I opened up Instagram again and the first thing to pop-up on my feed was the phrase: 

“When the global north catches a cold, Africa gets pneumonia.”

I rolled my eyes and kept on scrolling. The irony. 

While the United States scrambles to contain the spread of COVID-19, make testing widely available, and develop a vaccine, journalists, doctors, and public health experts are worried about Africa. 

While Black and brown Americans are contracting the virus and dying at exponentially higher rates than the average white American, experts are worried about Africa. 

African patients were given limited medical care in Philadelphia hospitals due to “language barriers”, French doctors suggested experimentation on Africans on live television, and black women have died because health care workers considered them low priority. Africans are being evicted from their homes and left homeless in the streets in China because a rumor spread that they caused the initial outbreak. The global north needs to cover its mouth.

I am annoyed because Black death and death due to poverty doesn’t only happen in Africa. It happens all the time, right here, in the “global north,” in “first world countries,” in the United States of America. 

Despite the health care system being “better”, “more advanced”, and “well equipped,” death happens here at the same rate. Where it can be avoided, death happens anyway. 

So every day while I force myself to stay busy, creative, and thankful, I think about how incredibly lucky and unlucky I am. Lucky and unlucky to be a black woman in the U.S. How lucky I am to receive jollof rice, gloves, and masks from my mother in a care package but unlucky to live in the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. How lucky and unlucky I am to be laid off due to COVID -19 but free to focus on myself and my endeavors. Just how lucky and unlucky this time is in general. Because when the infection rate could have been curved and subsequent death could have been avoided, and you, your family, and friends survive…

all you are is lucky.

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