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When Asked About Vaccine Mandates, Ibram X. Kendi says People of Color Do Not Have Access to COVID-19 Vaccine

The video of Kendi's statement, which was posted by a nonprofit, was removed for violating Twitter Rules

History Profesor and antiracism activist Ibram X. Kendi claimed people of color do not have access to the COVID-19 vaccine while speaking at the University of Milwaukee’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

As part of his antiracist teaching, Kendi argues that any policy that results in disparate racial outcomes is a racist policy. 

Mythinformed MKE, a non-profit organization, posted a video on Twitter of an event attendee asking if, according to his philosophy, vaccine mandates were racist.

Kendi said that some information shows whites are the most likely to resist getting vaccinated while other data indicates “that black and Latinx Americans are the least likely to be vaccinated.”

“So, as a result, it is hard to say,” Kendi said. “What I will say is that, to me, the actual problem isn’t the vaccine mandates. The actual problem is when you actually study those typically black and Latinx people who aren’t vaccinated — when you actually talk to them — we’re finding that a lack of accessibility to the vaccine for a whole host of reasons is actually leading to them having a lower rate while, with white Americans, it is more or less the result of their political ideology.”

Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reports that 77% of the adult population in the U.S. has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine: While as of September 21, 2021, White adults accounted for the largest share (60%) of unvaccinated adults, Black and Hispanic people remain less likely than their White counterparts to have received a vaccine, leaving them at increased risk, particularly as the variant spreads.”

KFF notes that the ratio varies by state. For instance, Hispanic people have higher vaccination rates in comparison to white people in Missouri, Vermont, Tennessee, DC, Louisiana, Virginia, Nevada, New York, and South Carolina. The same is true for Black people in Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, Washington, and Louisiana.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 61% of white adults, over 71 million, are fully vaccinated while 10%, or 11 million, black adults and 16%, or 19 million, Hispanic or Latino adults are fully vaccinated. Notably, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are the least likely to be vaccinated, with just 0.3% of the population fully vaccinated.

Newsweek reports that “there are two key demographics of Americans who are particularly hesitant or reluctant to get vaccinated against COVID-19: White Republican men and African Americans.”

The outlet notes that Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Indiana, Idaho, Wyoming, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas all have the lowest percentage of the population that has received one dose of the vaccine.

“What are those states full of? White Republican men and African Americans” says Newsweek.

The New York Times reports that “vaccine hesitancy remains somewhat high among African-Americans, though the doubts and distrust — tied largely to past government malfeasance like the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiments — have markedly declined in recent months.”

Barriers to access include lack of transportation, lack of health insurance, or too few vaccine locations in areas with high populations of people of color, according to Gary Bennett, director of Duke Digital Health and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.

The COVID-19 vaccination is free for “all people living in the United States, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status,” per the CDC’s website. In fact, the agency prohibits vaccine providers from denying a “vaccination to anyone who does not have health insurance coverage, is underinsured, or is out-of-network.”

The United States Census found that Lousiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Alabama, and South Carolina were the states with the highest African American population. USA Today’s vaccine distribution tracker indicates that each of these states has between 20% (Maryland) and 32% (Alabama) of its allotted dose still available.

People of color, by most measures, have equal access to vaccines but are not pursuing vaccinations at the same rates as other demographics. 

Kendi is the author of the popular book How to Be an Antiracist and the childrens’ book Antiracist Baby. He has a doctorate in African American studies from Temple University and undergraduate degrees from Florida A&M University. The Root named him “the 15th most influential African American between the ages of 25 and 45 and the most influential college professor,” according to Boston University

As of Wednesday Evening, Mythinformed MKE  had been locked out of their Twitter account. Their post with the video clip was taken down for violating Twitter rules.

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