#InTheseTweets | Thirteenth Edition

Donney Rose
May 6, 2020 - 1:24

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In These Tweets is a weekly cultural dive into trending topics on Twitter. A collection of snapshot analyses on a variety of moments impacting our world. Sometimes serious, sometimes light, always substantive. We outchea, #InTheseTweets.

As the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic causes Americans to wrestle with a multitude of societal effects, it has been proven time and again that this country’s most vulnerable have much more to contend with than just the prospect of contracting the virus. BuzzFeed recently published a story on America’s homeless population titled “Why Can’t Homeless People Use Empty Hotel Rooms Through Quarantine?” which details experiences of various homeless citizens in different parts of the U.S. A consortium of homeless advocacy groups began a campaign called #HomelessCan’tStayHome as a way to assist homeless citizens to temporarily shelter in unoccupied hotel rooms. In New York City, America’s coronavirus epicenter, the homeless population is innumerable as thousands are unable to shelter in place as a means of avoiding contraction. Darryl Rice, a 54-year-old homeless New York City citizen, told BuzzFeed “that if he were relying on the government, he would still be on the street. He said he refuses to enter the shelter system because it’s dangerous and would have made social distancing even more difficult.”

Hotels are private businesses and therefore not obligated to provide shelter, but many are partnering with local governments around the nation to provide shelter. The issue is the number of rooms being made available from participating hotels and motels are a but a mere fraction of the percentage needed to secure a safe environment in cities with disproportionately large homeless populations. From a federal standpoint, it is yet another issue the U.S. government was not adequately prepared to respond to. But the lack of a prepared response aligns with the federal government historically having no real solution to minimizing homelessness in a nation with so much alleged excess.

It is not just the homeless population that are hyper vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 on account of proximity. A recent story in The Appeal highlights how dangerously susceptible many youths housed in residential treatment facilities are to contracting coronavirus. “On April 3, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that 24 children and 11 staff members at the Willow Springs Center tested positive for the virus; by May 4, 40 residents and 29 staff members were infected. One Willow Springs staff member has died. One woman told KUNR that she wasn’t able to contact her son at the facility for nearly a week before staff called to tell her he had tested positive for COVID-19; an employee at the facility said they weren’t given proper protective gear and that employees who had tested positive were still working” The Appeal wrote, chronicling the impact that one facility in Nevada is enduring.

These facilities that function as housing alternatives for behaviorally or emotionally challenged youth are mirroring the carelessness of state prisons where both inmates and personnel are confined in close quarters, making it impossible to contain an outbreak. Some facilities are isolating youth who test positive into ‘cottages’ and offering additional risk pay to their workforce, while others are dodging the issue when questioned about their safety measures. The negligence in safety seems to correlate to the idea that these types of facilities are merely a ‘purgatory’ in the pipeline to prison trajectory for its residents. And if nothing else this pandemic continues to inform us whose humanity is prioritized and whose is collateral damage, in this case the victims of structural neglect are young people who could theoretically reverse course if they are able to survive this timeline.

The Black List founder, Franklin Leonard, tweeted an easily verified opinion about New York Times writer/1619 project founder Nikole Hannah Jones’ was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary based on the work of The 1619 Project. Leonard tweeting this to his over 111,000 followers speaks candidly to the vitriol that Nikole Hannah Jones, the project’s participants, and The New York Times has received since the project debuted last August. Among other more scathing critiques, the project has been labeled ‘divisive’ and ‘historically inaccurate’ by those who are deeply into revisionist history. Slavery deniers from near and far have expressed their refusal of the project’s research, most specifically its centering of the institution of slavery as the driving force around the framing and growth of the American economy. Over 400 years after chattel slavery shaped the cultural and socioeconomic landscape of this country, and despite scores of documented evidence and present day societal impact, there are still folks big mad that a Black woman received an illustrious literary prize for facilitating a project that only scratches the surface of the atrocities of American slavery. Oh well, stay mad.

#TheLastDance documentary has captivated the attention of millions of sports fans and cultural observers for the past couple of weeks, as a sports-deprived world has been able to relive the glory of one of the greatest dynasties in professional sports history. In episode 5 of the documentary, Michael Jordan addressed the infamous statement “Republicans buy shoes too” in response to his refusal to endorse Black Democratic senatorial candidate, Harvey Gantt’s 1990 run against incumbent Republican Jesse Helms, a noted bigot. Veteran sports and culture writer Jemele Hill tweeted about a missed opportunity to juxtapose Jordan’s socio-political indifference with the words and actions of his socially conscious former teammate, Craig Hodges. 

Hodges, one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in NBA history, played an integral role in the first of the Bulls’ two three-peat championship runs. As a three-time winner of the NBA All Star weekend’s 3-point shooting contest Hodges was one of the most reliable marksmen utilized in the Phil Jackson-orchestrated triangle offense. He also was unafraid to express his political views and upon a visit to the White House after the Bulls 1991 championship and adorned in a dashiki, handed then president George H.W. Bush a letter that requested that Bush address inequalities faced by the Black community.  The following season Hodges was not only no longer with the Bulls, he was also not offered a contract from any other NBA team. Similar to the modern example of Colin Kaepernick as a talented, successful athlete whose activism ultimately made him undesirable, Hodges foreshadowed what could happen to future generations of athletes who dare take a bold stance in calling out the powers-that-be. And what the culture has long considered to be the league’s blackballing him and erasing of his legacy is now evident in the lack of mention of him at a significant moment in the documentary where it would have provided additional context to Jordan’s apathy. 

Florida attorney Daniel Uhlfelder recently took to a beach dressed in a Grim Reaper costume and inserted himself into a live news stream to warn Floridians about the dangers of a resurgence of the coronavirus. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the reopening of beaches and other non-essential businesses just over a week ago, prompting thousands of the state’s residents to flock to the sun and sand. Uhlfelder said he felt compelled to “urge beachgoers to think twice” about congregating en masse during a time of increased virus cases. Some might view his method as extreme, but somebody has to get out the word about the looming dangers that still exist. And if it means pulling up at the beach dressed as the symbol of death, maybe it will resonate the way it needs to. Hell, him being out there in that hot ass costume in 80+ degree weather should indicate how serious he is/dire a message he felt the need to convey.

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