Asking the wrong racial questions

I don’t pretend the know the ins and outs of how Philly Fighting COVID, which seems to have been an after school extracurricular activity, became Philadelphia’s No. 1 supplier of COVID testing, and then vaccine. Some of it was explained in an Inquirer story that had several notable points.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

First, you have to ask yourself how a startup headed by a 22-year-old with no medical credentials got a city contract.

CEO Andrei Doroshin was not a doctor, but you’d think he would have business credentials that were reviewed by the city and the City Council clown car.

But that didn’t happen.

Takeaway No. 1: The Inquirer, WHYY and Billy Penn asked the questions, did the research and got the answers the city did not. So, yes, this is one reason we all benefit from a strong, nosy and independent press. Without them, Philly Fighting COVID might still be steaming along. 

Takeaway No. 2: Philadelphia government is often inept and/or corrupt and there are no consequences for failure. City Health Thomas Farley admitted the partnership with Philly Fighting COVID was “a mistake,” and Mayor Jim Kenney demanded answers — in 30 days — but meanwhile stands behind Farley, as he stands by another one of his appointees, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, who was roundly criticized for ineptitude in handling the George Floyd protest/riots last year. 

Working for Kenney means you can say you’re sorry — and that’s enough. No punishment, no demerits. And with this record of appointments, Kenney thinks he is suitable for higher office, as has been rumored?

Takeaway No. 3: The Inquirer can turn any story into something that “threatens Black and brown communities,” as a headline in the print edition said, with the flimsiest of connections.

Any normal person can see this as a story in which the average person may be victimized, by the sale of personal data, which Philly Fighting COVID denies it had done. There was no complaint about the testing it had done, nor about the vaccine it administered, with two asterisks: 1- Four doses were given to friends of the CEO (because the doses were about to expire and they would have been thrown away, they say).

2- Testing was done for family members at the home of City Councilman Bobby Henon, because they supposedly went to a testing site and found it closed.

Questionable, but not criminal.

“The city has a legal and moral obligation to be good steward of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. That includes rigorous  vetting of partners in the vaccine program,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, quoted in the story. And he is correct.

He’s also correct when he says, “Episodes like this sow increased distrust and could be harmful to the overall goal of vaccinating the entire population.”

The “entire population” is inclusive, it includes everyone, but the Inquirer could not leave it alone. It just had to amplify through the lens of race.

“The incident ‘reinforces’ mistrust that already existed among marginalized communities, said Drexel social epidemiologist Sharrelle Barber.”

As had already been reported, it “reinforces” mistrust in all communities. Yes, the Black experience includes having been used as medical guinea pigs in the past. That happened, there is no denying it.

But there is nothing racist in how Philly Fighting COVID was chosen or how it operated, so why create one?

Something more pertinent to me, but written off in one paragraph, is the city’s relationship to the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium that is vaccinating in the Black community. The city didn’t partner with the Black doctors. Why?

If you are looking for a racial angle, that one seems ripe for exploration.

14 thoughts on “Asking the wrong racial questions”

  1. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu & Benedict,

    I believe we can translate “Cui bono” roughly into the vernacular, with say, Did anyone reporting this story “follow the money”?

    Ma scusa, parolo solo un po’.

    H.G. Callaway

  2. (Dictionary-mistrust-be suspicious of, have no confidence in.)
    Forty-one percent of Americans believe that newspapers like the Inquirer are full of misinformation so for the Inquirer to use the word mistrust reinforces the national poll. The use of the race card in almost every situation that covers our society begins to wear thin when the reality is the opposite of the allegation. To truly confront racism it to pinpoint the actual event, the parties involved and the intent showing actual bias or loss of equal value from the action taken. But when vague all-encompassing phrases are used than the most affected fall under the burden of overkill and their plight goes unanswered. Racial equality can only become a reality when pigmentation is not a judgment of the inner person and all the laws affecting racial injustice of any kind are utilized to the fullest when the cause is relevant and provable.

  3. The Inquirer is a radical,racist rag.They have zero credibility.They turn every problem into racism where none exists.They got rid of you and Flowers the only voices of common sense.Now they want Thiessen gone who really is mostly honest and in the middle.I really love their op-ods.They are a real joke.The people they publish are the people backing and running the narrative.Talk about special interests.They remind me of Hitler writing a column on what a good bunch of guys the Gestapo are.I must be the one person in 5000 who reads the paper every day because I learned a long time ago you should always know your enemy.And they are the local publishing wing of the radicals destroying this country.As for the Philly vaccination mess it’s just buisness as usual.

    1. Agreed. Word around the campfire is that the only thing keeping them afloat, financially, is George Soros dollars. It most very, very certainly is not their journalistic excellence because they are, indeed, a radical, racist rag.

    2. If the Inky leaned any further left, they’d fall over. Perhaps they did today as they removed comments on all but sports and their live events series. Their stated rationale is they claim the comments were taken over by small percentage of “trolls”. While there are certainly some folks who commented with extreme views and interesting vocabulary, it was the only place on the site to hear a differing opinion (meaning centrist or conservative) to their progressive narrative. Frankly, the comments were almost always better than the article IMHO.

      They’re now “left” in the echo chamber with their preferred audience…

      1. I agree. After a lifetime of reading The Inky and 10 years of paid digital subscription I am cancelling my subscription. I have come to accept the left-leaning reporting because of the allowed (albeit limited) availability of balancing views within comments.

        The smug condescension of the shutdown of comments tells me that they are insular out of insecurity. Adolescent and underpaid reporters who have the experience of high journalist are not a meaningful platform for information. The Inquirer continues to circle the drain journalistically as well as financially.

    1. Watched a show the other night called COPS. Two officers stopped a guy riding a bicycle and were holding him on suspicion of theft. He was put into the back of the cop car while they checked on the bike’s origin. The guy being held said to the cop, “You only stopped me on the bike because I’m black.” The cop (white) said, :”No. We stopped you because we had a suspicion the bike was stolen. It still has the price tag on the handlebars, and the advertising piece is still wrapped around the front wheel spoke.” The bike wasn’t stolen but the guy had a felony warrant in the amount of $50,000 on him for the past six months. MORAL: Cops do their job and too often the race card is tossed in their faces. How many white cops look the other way when they have suspicions because they don’t want to have to deal with being called a racist?

  4. Glad I finally caught up with your blog. I have missed you in the Inky, even when I didn’t agree with you. As someone over 65 and trying to retire (and do something useful for my community), I am eternally frustrated by the lack of availability of the vaccine. I’m not 75 yet, but a number of my neighbors who are 65, do not work in health care and do not have co-morbidities have been able to get vaccinated. Every time I turn around, it seems Kenney et al are moving the goal post. Now they’re putting teachers/school workers to the head of the line. They’ve also vaccinated city employees who do not work directly with patients/clients. I have signed up with 5 different sites to get vaccinated (including the city’s registration site) and have tried to get out-of-county appointments as far away as Lancaster. I have an autoimmune condition (that isn’t on the list) and I am afraid that if I get sick, it would trigger a Cytokine storm. What am I doing wrong?

    1. You have done everything I have done before lucking into a place that had vaccine. Ask your friends. A neighbor called me from a health care place after she got her shot and was told they had extra vaccine they would have to dump. She called me.
      Glad you found me.

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