Brian Kilmeade: Why Doesn’t Joe Biden Care About Black-On-Black Vaccine Hesitancy?
Monday morning, on "Fox & Friends," Brian Kilmeade took aim at COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The hypocrisy was hip deep. For instance, Kilmeade said, “I don't want a politician telling me what to do with a five year old. That should be between parent and pediatrician." This is obviously not consistent with the conservative position on gender transition.
During his rant, Kilmeade dropped some critically racist theories about America's pathetic vaccine rates. It's apparently all Black people's fault.
KILMEADE: Only four of 10 [Black Americans] have gotten the shot. Why doesn't the President call out African-Americans who put him in office and yell at them to get the shot?
Notice that Kilmeade reinforces the point that Biden is only president because of overwhelming support from people of color, specifically Black voters. Kilmeade, like most Fox News viewers, doesn't consider Biden president of “real" (i.e. white) America.
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade says Biden should "yell at" Black Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. https://t.co/pEFXkGFDJV— TPM Livewire (@TPM Livewire)1631539649.0
Of course, if you paid attention to the words Biden spoke last week, you'll notice that he specifically called out all willingly unvaccinated Americans, which should include any Black people who stubbornly remain unvaccinated because we are technically American citizens, at least outside of Texas.
It's unclear where Kilmeade is getting the "four out of 10" figure. A recent CNN poll showed that 68 percent of Black people said they've gotten at least one shot, compared to 73 percent of white people and 75 percent of Latinos. However, more people of color in general have initiated vaccination in the past two weeks, which implies that they aren't ideologically opposed to vaccines. Recent studies show that access has been a challenge, especially for lower income Americans. Polls also show that Black people are overall less hesitant about getting the vaccine than white Americans.
Seriously, though, if vaccine resisters were predominately Black, would Republicans actually defend our reckless choice? No, they'd go on about absent Black fathers and our disappointing lack of civic responsibility. If Black people were the major vaccine holdouts, Republicans would support cops pulling us over for rough jabs.
The GOP go-to move is blaming minorities for the country's ills. The latest COVID-19 surge is no exception. Even when it was obvious that willingly unvaccinated Americans were prolonging the pandemic with fatal repercussions, Republican politicians such as Ron DeSantis and Ted Cruz grossly accused immigrants of infecting everyone with coronavirus. They said this even while opposing vaccine and mask mandates in their own states, where the Delta variant runs free.
Republicans have latched onto the slander that Black people are the ones keeping us in pandemic hell because of our apparent (and untrue) refusal to get vaccinated, and that's somehow a clear failure of Democratic leadership. Just a few months ago, Republicans boasted of their increased support among POC voters. Now, we're the white Democrats' burden.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pulled this crap last month, and Rep. Dan Crenshaw from Texas recently tweeted "a huge portion of the unvaccinated are younger minorities. So this impacts a broad range of people, not just 'anti-vaxxer Trump supporters,' as Dems believe." Crenshaw feeds the white conservative victim mentality that Democrats are punishing Trump supporters rather than saving their ungrateful lives. Biden would prefer that everyone, regardless of political party, avoid a preventable death.
Unfortunately, this isn't just a problem on the right. Here in Portland, Oregon, I've encountered a fair share of white liberals, all of whom are vaccinated themselves, who are resistant to vaccine mandates, which they claim are unfair to Black people who have "good reason" to distrust the vaccine, which I repeat they themselves have taken. It's as if they don't fully understand how the Tuskegee Experiment worked.
I never thought I'd quote George W. Bush but this truly is the “soft bigotry of low expectations." Even if it was true Black people were disproportionately refusing to take the vaccine (and it's not), we would have a moral obligation to explain why they should. Their lives are at stake. The question isn't “if" the unvaccinated will catch COVID-19 and possibly die but "when."
Rightwing hacks like Kilmeade are repeating racist talking points because that's how they roll. We should ignore them and do everything we can to keep all Americans safe.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."