By I was sitting in my family room early one morning like always, having my morning cup of coffee and reading the paper, when I ran across a story talking about a recent hate crime. As I read the story, I began to think about my work in the area of HIV/AIDS and Black people both on the continent and here in America. It hit me like a ton of bricks; Black people all over the world are victims of greatest hate crime this world has ever seen, HIV/AIDS!
Just think about it for a minute, what is a hate crime? A hate crime is defined as the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious belief, sexual orientation, or disability. Its purveyors of hate uses explosives, arson, weapons, vandalism, physical violence, and verbal threats of violence to instill fear in their victims, leaving them vulnerable to more attacks and feeling alienated, helpless, suspicious and fearful.
So what the hell does HIV/AIDS have to do with anything you just read? I’m so glad you asked. HIV/AIDS has killed more people than any other pandemic in the history of the world and the majority of those people dying are Black. More than 25 million people (mostly Black) have died of AIDS since 1981. Africa (Black people for those of you who may not know it) has over 11 million AIDS orphans; by the end of 2007, women (mostly Black) accounted for 50% (half) of all adults living with HIV worldwide and 59% (over half) are in sub-Saharan Africa (Black women). Young people (under 25 years old) account for half of all the new HIV infections worldwide (mostly Black youth). In developing and transitional countries (that means Blacks and other people of color), 9.7 million people (mostly Black) are in immediate need of life-saving AIDS drugs and of these, only 2.99 million (31%) are receiving the drugs. I think that’s a hate crime, what do you think?
Now, I don’t know about you, but I could not conceive the United States of America and the rest of the world sitting back and watching Europe and Europeans being totally decimated by this pandemic without doing everything possible to stop it. If White folks were dying at the rate we are, they would be dropping medication out of airplanes, printing money around the clock and mandating that a percentage of every hospital, physician, epidemiologist, researcher and herbal chemist to donate time to treat, study the HIV/AIDS pandemic before they could work in this country; hell, it might even be a prerequisite to being able to receive your degree! I think that makes it a hate crime.
For those of you that see Africa as a place that’s too far away to see yourself, I’ll bring it a little closer to home. Blacks make up approximately 13% of the US population, yet we account for 50% of the AIDS cases in the United States. How in the hell can 13% of anything, account for 50% of everything? I think that makes it a hate crime. Why? Because if we are 50% (and growing) of all the HIV/AIDS cases, why aren’t we receiving at less 50% of the resources. The money goes out the door, but nobody really knows how much we (Black people) receive. The only thing we do know is that we (Black people) are tremendously underserved. I think that makes it a hate crime. So it seems to me that our government and other groups really don’t care that we are in a state of emergency.
You still don’t think HIV/AIDS and the lack of support to the Black community is a hate crime, check this out. Of all crimes, hate crimes are most likely to create or exacerbate tensions, which can trigger larger community-wide racial conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots. HIV/AIDS has truly caused major tension and conflict within the Black community between males and females and the Down Low phenomena as if all Black men are now homosexual or suppressing homosexual tendencies. In the faith community, far too many view HIV/AIDS as a sin and not a disease; overlooking all of those heterosexual women in what they believed to be monogamous relationships and marriages, but now infected with HIV/AIDS.
They say hate crimes put cities and towns at-risk of serious social and economic consequences. The immediate costs are racial conflicts and civil disturbances, police, fire, and medical personnel overtime, injury or death, business and residential property loss, and damage to vehicles and equipment. Long-term recovery may be hindered by a decline in property values, which results in lower tax revenues, scarcity of funds for rebuilding and increased insurance rates.
All that’s true, but the greatest cost of THIS hate crime called HIV/AIDS is HUMAN LIFE! It’s destroying our communities, our families and our friends. Its alienating us from one another, creating fear amongst us and making some of us just damn mean towards one another! That’s a hate crime to me. We’ve got to come together and in some cases, agree to disagree. We must come together; we can’t afford to perpetrate a hate crime on one another. As a suffering people, we must find a common-ground, build on that, because we don’t have the capacity to handle hatred from the outside as well as from within. As Dr. Maulana Karenga said, “We are injured physicians and it’s up to us to rescue and reconstruct ourselves.” We can only do this by showing one another more love than hatred from our oppressor. I say, like Mary McLeod, “Love builds, it’s positive and helpful. It’s more beneficial than hate. Our goal must be to create a world of justice, where no man’s skin color or HIV status is held against him or her. Loving your neighbor is a percept that could transform the world if it were universally practiced.” Let’s end this hate crime and let’s start at home!!