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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.
The New York Times recently reported on the death by suicide of Dr. Lorna M. Breen, an emergency room physician in Manhattan who had been treating COVID-19 patients. In a tragic tale of the emotional toll this pandemic has taken on doctors, Dr. Breen succumbed to self-inflicted wounds while visiting her family in Virginia. Her father, Dr. Phillip Breen said his daughter spoke about ‘devastating scenes’ she witnessed from the virus’ told on patients. “She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” Dr. Phillip Breen told The Times. Lorna, who had also contracted the coronavirus, had gone back to work after a week and a half recovery time before the hospital again sent her back home. Her family then intervened and requested her to come home to Charlottesville. Her father also told The Times that she had no history of mental illness, but that the last time he spoke with her he sensed that something was wrong.
It is disheartening to hear a story like this and sadly, this will probably not be the last one we become familiar with. Healthcare professionals on the frontlines of this pandemic are surely experiencing a trauma that those of us who are not doing that work daily can hardly fathom. To see such an excruciatingly sorrowful end for a doctor who was not only working to save others, but who had also endured the virus herself, is a reminder for us all to be gentle with essential workers in all industries that do not have the luxury of escaping the brunt of this crisis.
Professor, author and co-editor of “The Crunk Feminist Collective,” Brittney Cooper, tweeted a bombshell truth for many Black Americans living in this timeline of coronavirus. Cooper’s assessment of the push for reopening the country being a “gross necropolitical calculation that it is Black people who are dying disproportionately” is on par with data that draws a parallel between areas where the virus is a hotspot and areas where Black folks make up a majority or a plurality. We know that science determines how any catastrophe can impact us, but governmental action or inaction determines to what extent a specific populace suffers the effect. And seeing that there is a history of heavily populated Black cities being the recipient of governmental neglect, it is wise of us to make decisions around our safety, not based on a green light from municipalities and states who see events that produce disproportionate death rates of its Black citizens as an outcome of the law of natural selection.
In news sure to assist with many folks staying at home, Netflix released the trailer for former First Lady/Black America’s favorite imaginary auntie, Michelle Obama’s documentary about her best-selling memoir “Becoming.” Obama describes the documentary as a project that shares the stories of the people she met while touring her memoir. My wife, who is a strong advocate for “Becoming,” read through that book like it was holding every imaginable key to greatness on each page. We saw Madame FLOTUS for life when she gave a mainstage interview to Gayle King at the 2019 Essence Fest, and when I say the “yasss’’ responses were plentiful, plentiful is an understatement. Her interview was followed by a close out performance by R&B singer Mary J. Blige, which sent the Black Girl Magic meter into overdrive. Of course, we know that Mrs. Obama is an inspiration to millions around the world who do not identify as Black or a woman, but as a cautionary word of advice for anyone that does not identify as Black and woman, you are a visitor in this viewing experience. So, don’t be outchea carrying on like your connection to this icon’s story is culturally equivalent or plan to center yourself and embrace whatever dragging comes with that.
Professional dancer Kiana King had an enormously viral moment when she tweeted about the history of white women using stereotypical monikers to refer to women of color, but being upset about the usage of what many white women have now claimed as a pejorative. The “K-word,” or the name Karen, has become a culturally embraced term for white women that engage in problematic, tone-deaf, or self-centering behavior. As a final destination after countless monikers for white women who had gone viral for specific instances of privilege and microaggressions against people of color, the use of the name Karen has set off a firestorm for a number of white women anxious to experience some form of racial oppression.
Thing is, the name Karen is very much a tongue-in-cheek response to white womanhood that does not remotely carry the same level of race-based toxicity as other names used to describe women of color, when you take into account the cultural etymology of said names. To put it another way, I know more than a few Black women whose name actually is Karen, and that alone presents the difference between classifying the “K-word” as a slur and a Black woman being referred to as a multisyllabic title that is not her actual name. There is a specific erasure, typecasting, shaming or ghettoizing of a Black woman’s identity when those names are used as a method of demonizing Black womanhood. The same goes for other women of color who have been the victim of culturally insensitive renaming at the humor or ire of white women. When the name Karen gets resumes tossed to the bottom of piles, or loan applications are denied or cause eye rolls when social services are requested, then we can have a real conversation about the racial implications of Karen as a slur. Until then…Karen please!