I wish I could say I was surprised.
AIDS, a disease that some still believe only circulates in the haze of gay bars and in a netherworld of junkies too stoned to clean a nasty needle, now kills more African-Americans younger than 55 than heart disease, cancer or homicide.
May wind up killing more black children than white.
So my jadedness may seem inappropriate. But it doesn't come from a judgmental place. Doesn't come from any belief that African-Americans are more predisposed to shoot drugs, be promiscuous, be gay, or for that matter, be pure as mountain water and married to someone with a secret life that includes some or all of the above.
When I say I'm not surprised, I mean it in the way that I'm not surprised at the school shootings in Columbine, Springfield, and Jonesboro. I'm not surprised because as much as humans use disease and sociopathy to separate themselves from the other, rather than share in healing each other, the horror they're fleeing always manages to hem them up on a familiar route.
Bear with me. This isn't as apples and oranges as you may be thinking.
For years, youth violence menaced neighborhoods far removed from the manicured lawns and baby trees of suburbia. Rappers rapped about it on BET. Stop the Violence parades became yearly events. Which made it easy for people to cordon off gun violence as a black problem, a problem that needed only to be contained with slogans and non-profit pennies, to be kept in check long enough for those who could afford it to flee.
Problem is, youth violence fled to suburbia too. Which goes to show the danger that comes with putting a face on a problem as a reason to ignore it instead of seeing the humanity in that face.
Same goes for black people's indifference to AIDS.
Just as many white suburbanites once viewed youth violence as a black affliction, many African-Americans still think AIDS is a gay, white disease. Even as HIV eats away at 300,000 to 500,000 of the nation's poorest, youngest African-Americans, many black people still persist on seeing it through the footage of Rock Hudson's emaciated body being gurneyed to a hospital, or in the red ribbons affixed to the lapels of movie stars during the Oscars. …