Mr. Governor: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should
Proverbs 19:2: Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs.
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
On Monday, April 20, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp held a news conference to announce his plans to open up the Georgia economy six days earlier than the standing order of Shelter In Place.
While the Governor has sole authority to make decisions based on data, science, wise counsel or his own intellect, it remains within his authority to arbitrarily make unilateral decisions that will impact an estimated 3,989,167 people in the state of Georgia.
Exactly 21 days ago, by his own admission, Kemp was among the last governors to sign a shelter-in-place order on April 2.
He was also mocked for admitting on April 1 that he had only just learned that asymptomatic people could spread the coronavirus -- information that had been widely known for months. (CNN)
To date, the State of Georgia has 19,884 confirmed cases and sadly has lost 802 of its citizens to this dreadful plague. According to an influential model often cited by the White House, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Georgia hit its projected "peak" for daily deaths 13 days ago, on April 7.
But that same model predicts that dozens of people will die each day in the coming week. And to limit a resurgence of the virus, the model says that Georgia shouldn't start relaxing social distancing until after June 15 -- when the state can begin considering other measures to contain the virus, such as contact tracing and isolation.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms reported that Georgia’s numbers within a 24 hour period spiked 14% in death counts and rose 7% in confirmed cases. Globally, 2,626,571 confirmed cases are reported by World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control with, sadly, 182,359 deaths. Currently, the United States, according to John Hopkins University, reports 839,836 confirmed cases with 46, 079 deaths. (You and I sadly know too many people in that number.)
Stacy Abrams is correct when she points out that the virus is concentrated most heavily in largely African American regions of the state, raising concerns that opening businesses too quickly would disproportionately hurt black communities. The CDC shows some models suggesting a second wave of the virus is anticipated.
The Governor’s decision is his, and his alone. Having weighed the advice of scientist, medical professionals, epidemiologists and many others, and not qualifying for the Phase 1 reopening as per the guidelines set up by the CDC and White House, he has ordered that certain businesses and churches may resume on Friday.
As Pastor, Father and Influencer, I will not idly sit back and be silent to this calculated incompetency that places politics and profits above people!
Dr. King referred to elected officials or policy makers whose decisions impact black and poor people as conscientious stupidity or sincere ignorance.
The black community is once again stuck in the middle, between a rock and hard place! Amid all the gains of the civil rights movement, one thing remain glaringly obvious; we’ve moved on up to the deluxe apartment in the sky…but we’re still renters! Our lack of legislative and economic power is insignificant; therefore, our vulnerable population can be mistreated and scapegoated for political expediency.
Small business is the engine to our national economy. In the black community, it is the economic life blood in our community. They provide valuable goods and services for our non-manufacturing population. I support small businesses, and I most assuredly support small black and brown owned businesses!
We grew up getting haircuts with a towel around our necks in the kitchen or basement. My sisters and female cousins were getting perms, or having their hair straighten by a hot comb on the stove.
To my community: do not attack our own people for trying to survive, trying to hold a staff of struggling technicians or barbers together for the purpose of getting through these tough times. Tough times are not new for survivors of ill fated government programs, bailouts, corporate welfare, or any whim of a majority that uses the community as test cases to determine if they need to recalibrate projections. In the case of COVID-19 and opening up the economy with these vulnerable vendors and wage workers, it is believed that this type of racist action under the guise of restarting an economy endangers and diminishes the incalculable value of the scarce entrepreneurs who serve our community with dignity! You may choose not to patronize them, but you cannot make them the enemy when they are simply trying to eat like everyone else.
The same goes for our Black Churches! Every church has a congregational story that is deeply rooted in the relationships they have forged as a community. Black Churches and leaders are as diverse as the size of their memberships or the cars in their parking lots. No matter the demography, economy, mega church or mini store fronts, they are equally significant. Don’t demonize the Pastors or members who may legally have the right to hold services on Sunday as they practice physical distancing. If you’re uncomfortable, don’t go…but don’t demonize them.
I implore Pastors to strongly consider the immediate health threat posed by this pandemic to your membership! Most traditional black churches check all the Coronavirus boxes for serious injury or death. You're black, over sixty years of age, and have some preexisting health condition. Don’t be like the Governor who wasn’t aware of asymptomatic people who could be carriers of this plague. Wisdom is the principle thing… therefore get wisdom; but in all thy getting, get understanding. Understand this is not about our faith; it is about public health. The long range consequences to your potential growth and ministry brand may be irreparable.
Black churches leaders should strongly consider the data, science, climate and ultimately the Pastoral Commission of Acts 20:28. "Now it’s up to you. Be on your toes-both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of the people-God’s people they are- to guard and protect them. God Himself thought they were worth dying for.” (MSG)
This is not the time for inflated egos, selfish piety, or faith testing! If your congregation was divinely assigned to you for leadership before this pandemic, they will return to you. Jesus shows us that the sheep know the Shepherd's voice. Let’s not do to the sheep which God has entrusted us to lead and protect what the government is doing to underemployed, wage workers and poor people. We can’t repeat in our community the gross incompetence we endure from other communities.
So, to our small business owners... you’re like family. Be safe, make a living, and take extra care of your customers. To our churches... be safe, be led, and take extra care of the sheep!