Image of cultural 'virus' is built on stereotypes, untruths

  • Clyde Brooks

    Clyde Brooks

By Clyde H. Brooks
Guest columnist
Posted4/29/2020 1:00 AM

I read with interest the Thursday, April 23, column headlined "A virus before the virus" and written by Armstrong Williams in the Opinion Section of the Daily Herald.

Williams is a regular contributor for the Daily Herald. His photo always appears above his articles which for some, may give credibility to what he writes only because he is black and his words may support views in communities in which his opinion is read.


I defend the right of free speech and have long supported a free press. However, I was taught by a notable Bradley University professor that for an opinion to have worth, it should be earned. The opinion shared by Williams and distributed by the Daily Herald, must have originated in the bottom of stereotypes and codes used toward African-Americans by the conservative media, the KKK and other right-wing groups.

Williams writes at a time many of our citizens, both white and black, are working together to fight the COVID-19 virus. However, in his article, he appears to suggest that a "virus" preceding COVID-19 somehow contributed to the latter. He identifies this pre-COVID-19 virus with attacks on black and brown citizens.

While his article does not use racial and cultural titles, it is clear to any reasonable reader that he is talking about African-Americans and the disadvantaged. He rambles with indictments of "kids who go to school with incomplete homework, with bad attitudes and with no respect for authority." He talks about "mothers who sit on couches strung out on drugs in filthy homes." He uses the words "laziness" and "parents not involved in their child's life" to help describe the people in his pre-COVID-19 virus world. He accuses a whole class of folks with "wanting to live off the government, squander their rich offerings and acting like zombies with no hope and without inspiration."

It is the opinion of Williams that this is like the virus that brought on COVID-19 and in part has caused death and pain, and he believes that "this dystopia is the reality in today's America."

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His language toward blaming black and brown citizens has been heard over and over again from representatives of the White House, conservative media and bigots. I have long believed that in assessing others, the assessor will always find what they are looking for, because we all live in an imperfect world. As Williams, supported by the media, sprouts his one-sided, distorted untruths, I would encourage readers of his work to remember the thousands of black and brown families who are part of the backbone of this nation, and who despite institutional racism and racial hatred, are now mayors, legislators, college professors, doctors, first responders, nurses and students in schools of higher learning.

Many of these pre-COVID-19 citizens are elderly African-Americans suffering and dying because of underlined medical conditions that resulted from "food deserts," the dumping of toxic materials in their neighborhoods, lack of health care services and the list goes on and on. Far too many African-Americans in the pre-COVID-19 virus period that Williams makes reference to were underemployed despite their qualifications, denied the right to vote or were unable to find health care services due to a failed health care system and now are dying in droves.

Many of the people cited by Williams in his "pre-COVID-19 world" are working in "essential jobs," jeopardizing their health and lives in order for people like Williams and me to live our lives.

The goal of Williams seems to be to increase the number of "right-wing" readers. If so, he will not reach his goal. People are changing, and more importantly, people are thinking. Many no longer buy the distortions that are expressed by Williams.

Our role is not to censor but to insist on the use of facts and not untruths. I am simply saying, as an African-American working hard to unite people with truth, the world described by Williams is not my world. It is clear that during our lives, Williams and I "march by the beat of a different drummer." I thank my God that my "march" during my minute of time on this earth is different.

• The Rev. Clyde H. Brooks, of Arlington Heights, is chairman of the Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations.

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