Busta Rhymes apparently agrees with Republican governors on masks and mask mandates. In the middle of a pandemic, with the Delta variant overpowering hospitals across the country, the New York rapper thinks it’s the protocols that are the issue.
The power and influence of celebrities are undeniable. To disregard that influence and recklessly attack mask mandates and pandemic protocols in the middle of a new variant surge only reinforces counterproductive ideas about public health and safety.
Chuck D once called rap music the CNN of the Black community. A 1993 Chicago Tribune article quoted the Public Enemy frontman as saying rappers are correspondents. Well, Busta’s little anti-mask tirade is more like Fox News. It’s like he wants to bring us Extinction Level Event III sooner rather than later. But real talk, COVID-19 is no joke.
Black doctors, nurses, and other public health officials have been fighting for months to get good information out to Black communities about this disease and the ongoing nature of the pandemic.
Several Black celebrities, journalists, and influencers have worked with Black doctors and scientists to get good information about the pandemic, wearing masks and vaccinations. In March, the host of United Shades of America, W. Kamau Bell, did a video with a group of Black doctors asking real questions about the pandemic and the vaccine.
A partnership between the Black Coalition Against COVID, UnidosUS, and the Kaiser Family Foundation “The Conversation” series includes 87 videos from Black health providers. Each video answers a particular question about COVID-19, the new variants, and the vaccination.
It would’ve been different had he expressed frustration with the CDC’s back and forth on the mask. That would be understandable. At one point, the CDC suggested vaccinated people did not have to mask but recently changed course because of the rise in the Delta variant. New variants, new rules.
But Busta’s impromptu tirade distorts some real issues around the pandemic and the need for all of us to still take precautions. Here are a few COVID-19 facts to keep in mind.
- Staying masked up is an effective way to keep ourselves and each other safe during this pandemic. The World Health Organization has told people, including those vaccinated, to continue masking up in certain conditions. Mask wearing can reduce transmissibility. This means wearing a mask properly, over your mouth and nose.
- Groups at elevated risk for exposure will appreciate you being a little inconvenienced. Immunocompromised people are currently eligible for a booster shot based on evidence that suggests a waning immunity.
- Do you have children in your life? Children under age 12 have not been approved for vaccination but are getting sick, with rising hospitalizations for this age group. Vaccine studies involving children are currently underway to figure out the right dosage.
- The mRNA vaccines are based on years of research, having the funding and attention cut through a major barrier to developing new treatments. Also, scientists worldwide were sharing research making it a little bit easier to finish promptly.
- Black and Latino communities, like in some parts of Chicago, are still susceptible to COVID-19. The Delta variant is raging and running its way through communities across the country, with a higher transmissibility rate. Yes, wearing a mask can be frustrating, but it will be even more frustrating when you or a loved one get sick and realize it could’ve been prevented.
- As of August 24, community transmission rates are high across every state in the union except Maine.
Over the decades, artists like Busta Rhymes have become admired and trusted figures. And with that trust comes a responsibility in a matter of public health and crisis.
Being asked, or even told, to wear a mask is not a violation of your civil liberties. Using police to enforce and harass people to wear masks does raise civil rights issues and concerns.
There is actually a real fight to protect the rights and gains made in the past 50 plus years alone. Having the government and people who do not have a uterus telling you what you can and can’t do with your body is a civil liberties issue. State and federal governments relying on increased surveillance tactics and targeting organizers committed to racial justice is a civil liberty issue.
Mask mandates aren’t one of them.