On September 16, an altercation took place at the famous New York eatery, Carmines, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A newly employed hostess was enforcing NYC’s recently enacted mandate that all people aged 12 and older show proof of vaccination to dine indoors when a group of tourists from Texas – three men and three women – attempted to secure a table inside the eatery. The women, who showed up before their male counterparts, were inoculated and permitted entry. The men – who were unvaccinated - showed up shortly thereafter and were not allowed inside. That prompted the women to leave. An argument between the tourists and the hostess ensued.
Video footage obtained from the restaurant shows the group of women, who are black, attacking the hostess, who is Asian. The women were subsequently arrested and charged with assault. They claim the hostess used a racial slur during the argument, which prompted the physical assault. The hostess denies this, as does Carmines’ owner Jeff Bank, who said:
“Three women brutally attacked our hosts without provocation, got arrested and charged for their misconduct, and then, over the last several days, had their lawyer falsely and grossly misrepresent their acts of wanton violence in a cynical attempt to try to excuse the inexcusable.”
The organization Black Lives Matter (BLM) came to the tourist’s defense, initially accusing Carmines of withholding additional video footage that would substantiate the women’s claims. In response, Carmines released all videos related to the incident. There was no audio. The only people who will ever know if a racial slur was uttered are the individuals involved. However, what is indisputable is what happened a few days later:
On Monday September 20, a protest took place outside Carmines. Demonstrators were joined by Chivona Newsome, the BLM co-founder of Greater New York. Newsome & Co demanded that NYC’s vaccine mandate be rescinded because its “racist.” The logic behind her argument: a smaller percentage of NYC’s black residents are vaccinated than then their white and Asian counterparts, hence NYC’s vaccine mandate is prejudiced against black people. Said Newsome, accompanied by a group of protestors, “72 percent of black people in this city from ages 18 to 44 are unvaccinated…So what is going to stop the Gestapo, I mean the NYPD, from rounding up black people, from snatching them off the train, off the bus? ...The vaccination passport is not a free passport to racism…” Newsome went so far as to call for a national uprising over NYC’s vaccine mandate.
In our view, Newsome’s position is grossly misguided, utterly absurd, and a tragic misallocation of resources that is most harmful to the people BLM claims to advocate for.
At TQC, we often concur with libertarians on a myriad of issues. As such, we generally do not favor government mandates, including for most vaccines. In circumstances where a virus is both highly contagious and deadly – such as smallpox and polio – we think government-mandated inoculations for the general population are appropriate. However, we believe vaccines should be promoted for less serious viruses like the flu or chickenpox, but not required.
Where does COVID fall in this spectrum, and do we think COVID vaccines should be required as a precondition to “fully participate in society,” as New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio espoused? Exhaustive data is clearly indicative that all COVID variants are materially more contagious than the flu and probably more deadly (we expect the mortality rate for COVID and the flu will converge as treatments for the former continue to improve); COVID is certainly more lethal than the chickenpox. And while COVID is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated (“breakthrough” cases, often reported by the press, are extremely rare and almost never result in serious illness and /or death), we do not think COVID meets a criterion that would warrant forced inoculations. Hence, At TQC, we think COVID vaccines should be highly encouraged (we are vaccinated), but not forced.
Regardless of what we think, or what anybody else for that matter thinks, like it or not, there is strong legal precedent for the government to mandate immunizations. In 1905, the SCOTUS upheld a lower court ruling that authorized states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws. “The Court's decision articulated the view that individual liberty is not absolute and is subject to the police power of the state,” SCOTUS ruled in Jacobson v. Massachusetts. Since this landmark ruling, vaccine mandates have withstood numerous legal challenges in courthouses throughout America. Most recently, courts have ruled in favor of both public and private colleges and universities that are requiring students and staff to get jabbed.
People of all races and religions are not vaccinated. Vaccine mandates have nothing to do with the color of one’s skin, they are a matter of public health. One can debate the effectiveness (and legality) of vaccine mandates every way to Sunday, but to claim they are “racist” is laughable.
One important reason that less black people are vaccinated vs. their white counterparts is that blacks were horribly mistreated by the medical community in the past. The most famous example of this malfeasance was the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which ran for 40 years and ended fairly recently, in 1972. A lesser-known, but equally stunning case of a gross medical ethics violation against a black woman was the story of Henrietta Lacks. To learn more, we highly recommend, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Those atrocities were indeed “racist.” And given the ugly history of medical abuse against minorities in America, it makes sense why a disproportionate number of black and brown citizens have resisted getting inoculated.
As we have maintained in previous posts, BLM has been instrumental in bringing much-needed attention to systemic racism, a non-colorblind criminal justice system, police bias, and much more, to a broad swath of Americans and global citizens. They deserve credit for that. And we commend BLM for their continued hard work and dedication to improving the lives of black and brown Americans.
However, as it pertains to helping black and brown Americans in the context of COVID-19, BLM is doing these citizens a dangerous (and potentially deadly) disservice by using flawed logic to make false claims that COVID vaccine directives are biased. In our view, it would behoove BLM, and greatly benefit black lives if BLM leaders in NYC redirected their energy from protesting “racist” vaccine mandates, and instead encouraged more black people (and all people for that matter) to get vaccinated and explain how and why COVID vaccines are safe and effective.