The One Story: HBCUs And The Gatekeeping Of Black Culture
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UPDATED: 5:17 p.m. ET, March 17 —

It’s not just Florida.

Dozens of Spring Breakers in Alabama were seen hanging out at a beach in Alabama on Tuesday, one day after hundreds of beachgoers in Florida appeared to be brazenly ignoring the coronavirus health guidelines that advise against large groups meeting.

In the Alabama town of Orange Beach, journalist Chris Harress took a photo of beachgoers acting as if the coronavirus had not caused a global pandemic that has upended the lives for many people in the U.S. and around the world.

“Spring Break continues at Orange Beach despite the continued spread of coronavirus around the state,” Harress captioned his photo that he posted to Instagram. “Alabama’s governor Kay Ivey controls the beaches, not the mayor.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were at least 39 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Alabama. While there were not any deaths reported, the national death toll from the coronavirus was at least 100, according to CNN. More than 4,000 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the U.S., according to statistics from the New York Times.


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While some beaches in Florida have been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, at least one was still inviting Spring Breakers to get their tans on as local officials reportedly deliberate over exactly how to proceed — despite guidance coming from the federal government advising social isolation and avoiding crowds of 10 or more. 

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One beach in the city of Clearwater had what appeared to be hundreds of white folks clad in swimsuits while enjoying themselves, according to a series of photos posted by Sarah J. Hollenbeck, a TV news reporter for local news outlet ABC Action News. Hollenbeck, who posted the photos on Twitter, described the scene as “BUSY.” 

The imagery — which was bereft of any Black folks — stood in stark contrast to scenes shown from areas of the country that have been hit hard by the coronavirus, including New York City and San Francisco, the latter of which was just placed in a 24-hour lockdown.


The photos were posted to Twitter just around the same time that President Donald Trump announced strict new guidelines and drastic measures in an attempt to control the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Some of those guidelines that also come from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control say that one of the only ways the control the coronavirus is by people self-quarantining themselves and avoiding crowds that are bigger than 10 people. The photos from Clearwater showed beachgoers crowding the shoreline as far as the eye could see.

It was one of the latest indications that Americans are disregarding directives from health officials who have pointed to South Korea as a blueprint for the U.S. to follow for controlling and ultimately slowing down the spread of the coronavirus. It will take a group effort, officials have said. But in Clearwater, it appeared that beachgoers misunderstood exactly what “group effort” means.

Oh, by the way, four people in Florida have died from the coronavirus and there was a reported major spike of diagnoses over the weekend. That’s what prompted the popular Miami Beach to announce on Monday that it was closing. The Sun Sentinel also reported that additional beaches in other Florida cities popular with Spring Breakers have closed.

There was an ignorant rumor there for a while that Black people were immune to the coronavirus. While that myth has since been decidedly debunked, it was telling that there didn’t appear to be any Black folks in Hollenbeck’s photos while all of the beachgoers had the privilege of seeming to not care about a pandemic-level sickness that had already taken dozens of lives and affected thousands of others.

For full perspective, more than 4,000 people have been diagnosed in American with the coronavirus and more than 70 have died of it, according to statistics from the New York Times. While young, healthy people — presumably those aforementioned Spring Breakers — have not been the bulk of people dying from coronavirus complications, there are still plenty of questions surrounding it, making it unclear who could contract it next. But among the questions is one major fact — it can be passed on by someone who doesn’t know he or she has it or exhibit any of the symptoms that ultimately become consistent with those from the common cold and flu.

While chances are that officials will close Clearwater Beach after this and other negative press, the odds are equally as good that it will have been too late as cases of coronavirus probably were spreading among at least a portion of the hundreds of beachgoers shown in Hollenbeck’s photos.


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