I do not want to hammer away at this, but it is a truism that if you protest racism you are going to upset some racists.
Recently, an Anguillian radio host took a turn on his radio station against a citizen who dared to express his opinion of Covid-19 vaccination refusers. The citizen criticised persons who refuse vaccination, claiming they will hinder the reopening of the island’s tourism-based economy. The citizen in question is White, and the radio host is Black.
He urged government that, “When everyone who wants vaccination gets it, probably in May, we need to open. Do away with the 14-day quarantine. It is not realistic to expect tourists to endure that. People who choose not to get vaccinated should stay home and hide out. They should not have the option of hospital treatment, they should not get to work in tourism, travel, public service, or any forward-facing job. I do not want to be held hostage by people who choose to hide from covid. … there has to be an exit strategy, or we will collapse economically. Government needs to view the requirement for vaccination as a Health and Safety issue, much like hard hats on a construction site. If you work in construction, you wear the required PPE. No-one can tell the employer they cannot demand PPE. Workers who refuse get sent home. In any hospitality related job, workers who refuse vaccination should be sent home.”
So, the background to this incident is the coronavirus pandemic and the controversy over both the disease and the cure. The disease is real, as every virologist and epidemiologist has convincingly explained. In addition to the many preventable deaths, the crippling, long-term damage to the health of survivors is worrying. It is not just the lungs that are affected. So too are the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and blood. Governments all around the world are working with the World Health Organisation and centres for disease control to develop mechanisms for preventing and curing the diseases caused by this virus.
This has not stopped the many loud and deranged Covid-deniers out there. Most of them are White but some of them Black. Some White ones, like Robert Kennedy Jr are persons of influence. They are listened to and believed by Anguillians, among others.
These vaccination sceptics are busy publishing propaganda against the vaccinations that are offered against the virus: their approval was too hurried. They are unproven treatments. They will inject poisons into us. They are intended to kill us off. They are a conspiracy by foreign billionaires to reduce the earth’s population.
These messages of disinformation and misinformation by malicious trolls are widely propagated on Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, and other social media. They have infected the minds of many otherwise intelligent listeners in Anguilla. Some have understandably developed unfounded doubts about not just the existence of the virus but, more worrying, about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
So, back to the incident in question. The radio host ranted on his radio programme for nearly an hour against this “bold statement made by that man.” He repeatedly warned the citizen that he had overstepped his bounds. What he wrote was disrespectful to Anguillians because he was not a “born Anguillian”. His tone was too abrasive. He was being disrespectful to Anguillians. He had to understand that, as someone not born here, he could not be allowed to “get in front of Anguillians.” Ninety percent of the villas are now owned by White expats. They have taken over the villa business in Anguilla. They have come to believe that all Anguillians are inferior to them.
According to the radio host, the citizen’s real offence was that he was an “expat”, a White man, lecturing Black Anguillians. The radio host, while protesting that he was not a racist, that he loved some Whites who knew their place, proceeded to attack the citizen entirely based on his colour and place of origin. Where, he asked, did this expat citizen get the power to be able to speak like this without fear to born Anguillians? Who, he asked, emboldened him? Who did he think he was to speak to Anguillians in this tone of voice? He threatened ominously that this person ought to be afraid for speaking out in this way. He needed to apologise to us for his words and their tone. The warning of violence was unmistakable to the alert listener.
The radio host’s entire critique of the citizen was not a reasoned repudiation of the citizen’s opinion on this public health issue. It was an unspoken but false suggestion that White people believe in the virus while Black people hold the better view that the virus is fake and the vaccination dangerous. White people, he implied, conspire to kill off black people with a dangerous and unproven vaccination. Four hundred years of slavery, he stated, had alerted Black Anguillians to be alert to the natural race prejudice of White people and to reject their views. Black people were justified in refusing to accept the Covid vaccination.
It was a classic racist rant. I know the radio host and I do not believe he is racially prejudiced. But he must be careful about how he expresses himself. Every word appeared designed to trigger outrage and fear in the Black listener. It was an indulgence in race blaming, envy, and victimhood. It appeared designed to stir up listeners to condemn and destroy this stranger in their midst, this foreigner from afar who had dared to express his opinion about vaccination deniers. It was a shameful performance on the part of the radio host.
The radio host seemed to assume that every Anguillian listening to his rant would agree with him. It assumed that the average Anguillian shared his racist views. I do not accept that Anguillians generally believe themselves, because of their colour or their place of birth, to be either victims or superior to anyone else. This is not just a chip on the shoulder. It is nothing but a demonstration of a crippling inferiority complex.
Personally, I believe that any person among us who refuses to take the anti-Covid vaccine when it is offered is a danger to not just himself. He is a public health risk to the general population. He should be sanctioned by law. There should be a fine or imprisonment.
Those of us of a certain age can remember in the 1950s and 1960s when we were not allowed on an aeroplane if we could not produce the yellow WHO Smallpox vaccination certificate. No sensible person at the time objected to this legal requirement. If we are going to be enclosed in a limited space with fellow travelers, we should not be made to feel we are being entombed with them. Once the Covid-19 vaccination campaign has come to an end, airlines and ferries should be obliged not to accept as a passenger anyone who does not produce a valid vaccination certificate.
When we are relaxing with friends around a social meal or a drink in a bar, we are entitled to feel safe. We should not be exposed to reckless individuals who care nothing of our health. In the USA, when we try to buy a drink in a bar, we are asked to show identification to prove we are over twenty-one. We should similarly be required by law to show our vaccination certificate to prove we are safe to be included in the clientele.
Anyone refusing to be vaccinated in Anguilla should be refused entry to ‘planes, ferries, restaurants and bars. It should be a prerequisite, an essential qualification, for employment in the tourism industry. No teacher should be allowed in school who is not vaccinated.
It may not yet be politically feasible to make Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory by law. But every effort should be made to encourage Anguillians to get vaccinated. In fact, we need to work hard on vaccinations for disinformation of all kinds.