This meme is mostly false.

Viral Truths

COVID-19 statistics are far from complete, but the best evidence in hand suggests a survival rate of about 99%.

So, the meme gets that one fact right.

But a virus that kills 1% of the folks it infects is, in fact, “evil.” So, the meme’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” public health advice clearly rings false.

If the Coronavirus killed “only” 1% of the country, that would add up to 3.3 million dead Americans. Such a staggering, tragic loss would make the pandemic 333 times more deadly to Americans than the War on Terror, 33 times more lethal than Vietnam, 3 times deadlier than World War II, roughly equal to the American Revolution’s body count, and nearly half as deadly as the Civil War, which killed “only” 2.4% of the country.

Moreover, if past trends continue, most of the dead would be elderly, low-income nonwhites.

COVID-19 kills less than 1% of young, healthy people, but it kills 10.4% of “infected people from age 65 to 74, 20.8% for the 75–84 group, and 30.1% for people over 85.”

The Coronavirus disproportionately kills African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, because low-income minorities tend to live in more crowded conditions, rely more on public transportation, and have jobs that require greater public interaction. According to CDC data, “The age-adjusted COVID-19 death rate for Black people is 3.6 times that for whites, and the age-adjusted death rate for Hispanic/Latino people is 2.5 times that for whites.” Death rates for Native Americans run about 5 times higher than for whites.

So, this meme only makes sense if you accept its ageist, racist premise that old, black, brown, red, and poor lives don’t matter.

If people heeded this meme — and similar advice from reckless political leaders—then the death toll may exceed 1%. Before we stayed home, wore masks, and practiced social distancing, hospitals in the Northeast got hit with more patients than they could treat. That led to unnecessary deaths. Now hospitals are getting overwhelmed again— this time mostly in red states that closed too late and rushed to reopen too early.

Finally, the meme cavalierly ignores the misery of Coronavirus survivors. Months later, many still struggle to breathe. The infection causes possibly irrevocable lung, heart, and/or brain damage — including strokes and seizures. Many patients have not yet recovered their senses of taste or smell. At this point, we do not know how many Americans COVID-19 will leave permanently disabled.

How Racist Are Americans?

99.95% is a stupid, made-up statistic. There is no basis for the meme’s assertion that only 1 in 10,000 people is racist.

Many sources show the incidence of racism is in fact far, far higher. For example, 84% of white Americans say they approve of interracial marriage. So, the other 16% — 1 out of every 6 white people — are clearly racist.

However, the problem is much bigger than that 16% hard core willing to confess their racism anonymously to Gallup.

A solid majority of Americans — 65% — report that since Trump’s election, “it’s now more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views.”

Asked how much the “legacy of slavery affects the position of black people in American society today,” 59% of Republicans say “not too much” or “not at all.” 31% of GOP voters say the US has “gone too far” in “giving black people equal rights with whites.” 77% of conservatives say our biggest problem is not actual racism, but people “seeing discrimination where it does not exist.”

The Republican refusal to recognize racism is literally incredible. It contrasts sharply with the reported experiences of people of color, and is plainly disproven by abundant evidence of systemic discrimination and inequality with regard to income, wealth, health, life expectancy, education, etc.

Racism is an original sin from which no human is entirely free. We’re all bigots inside, having grown up in cultures rife with implicit and explicit bias. Antiracists face this fact and consciously choose to confront and correct those internal prejudices.

Self-described “nonracists,” on the other hand, have declared victory prematurely and implausibly. They congratulate themselves for avoiding overt racial slurs. They define enlightenment as colorblindness to avoid discussing or addressing persistent inequalities, and thus to justify continued discrimination.

How Many Bad Cops Are There?

The meme defines a bad cop as one unwilling to “risk their lives for yours,” and claims 99.95% of cops would pass that test.

Most law enforcement officers are ethical professionals, but the last few months have produced extensive video footage of police abuse and murder of people of color and protesters — often entirely unprovoked.

Clearly, the incidence of bad cops is far greater than 0.05%. A recent study showed up to 14,000 participating in racist Facebook groups. Other studies have found disturbing evidence of Klan and neo-Nazi infiltration of police departments.

Research has shown that appalling systemic racism afflicts US policing. Disparate treatment explains why whites generally trust the police and blacks mostly cannot.

Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil

Conclusion

Sensible people recognize COVID-19, racism, and bad cops as lethal threats.

It is unethical to ignore obvious evils.

Morality requires that we summon the courage to think clearly and act decisively.

This begins with listening to all concerned — but most carefully to those suffering the greatest harm.

Listening helps us see things as they are, integrating perspectives of others to form a larger, more inclusive vision of reality.

That insight enables us to speak out against injustice with conviction and work together, deliberately and relentlessly, to remedy these evils.

History, politics, education, music, culture. Award-winning high school teacher, former principal. College instructor. Seahawks Diehard. Twitter: @brian_mrbmkz

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