As a performer at Chez Josephine on West 42 Street, Dante Harrell is often on stage and surrounded by an audience, so when he heard about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to implement a vaccine passport, it made him feel safe.
“Our elected official is looking out for us,” Harrell told The Epoch Times. “He doesn’t want performers to get sick and he doesn’t want the public to get sick.”
Harrell, who is a tenor, is among the 32 percent of black New Yorkers who have been fully vaccinated as of Aug. 8, which leaves 68 percent of the population unvaccinated, compared to 57 percent of Latinos, 54 percent of whites, 32 percent of Native Americans, and 28 percent of Asians, according to New York City’s vaccination dashboard.
“I think that everybody needs to get vaccinated and if they don’t get vaccinated, they should just stay in the house,” said Roxanne Durham, a black real estate agent who specializes in selling properties in Brooklyn. “Black and brown people especially need to be vaccinated because they are dying of COVID at higher numbers,” she said.
India Rivera told The Epoch Times that although a vaccine mandate could be used to discriminate against people of color, they should educate themselves and be vaccinated.
“There are pros and cons but I think it’s good the mayor is making it mandatory because there’s a lot of people out here who are ignorant about it,” said Rivera who is Latino. “Blacks and Hispanics are not making it their business to educate themselves about the facts of the vaccine. They just make up their own conclusions, they are listening to other people’s opinions, and they are following the stereotypes that they hear, which is basically just a lot of gibberish.”
While blacks and Latinos make up 24.3 and 29.1 percent of New York City’s population respectively, they made up, respectively, 29.4 and 31.3 percent of those who died of COVID-19.
“Minorities are afraid of the vaccine because of what the government has done in the past, which caused a lot of distress,” Clemente Castillo, a Latino who owns city-wide cleaning business We Clean Castles, told The Epoch Times. “The Tuskegee experiment is the most common that everyone knows about.”
Black men died while under the false impression they were receiving treatment during the Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee University from 1932 through 1972, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Harrell, however, feels that de Blasio has good intentions.
“I think it will prompt us and people in general to get up and get vaccinated,” said Harrell, who resumes his singing performances in September. “I didn’t want to get the vaccine but I had to. In order for me to work as a performer, I had to follow Actors’ Equity Association rules.”
Starting in September, under de Blasio’s vaccination mandate, New Yorkers will be required to show proof of vaccination to dine at restaurants indoors, to exercise inside a gym, or attend indoor performances like Harrell’s at Chez Josephine.
Castillo worries that the requirement is a step toward renewed lockdowns.
“I’m a little worried because it restricts people’s freedom and removes their ability to choose like it was in Nazi Germany for the Jews,” Castillo said. “This mandate could become a bigger problem in the future. It starts with a vaccine passport and then it becomes more of a thing and eventually they’ll tell us that we can’t come outside.”
Kishia Burks, who is African American, doesn’t believe vaccine passports can be used to discriminate based on race.
“That’s ignorant to say,” said Burks, who was shopping in Harlem. “I can’t speak on something that I don’t know but I don’t believe that. I agree with de Blasio for the simple fact that this is everyone’s safety we’re talking about. Just like you have to take vaccines to go to school, you have to take vaccines to be protected. I’m fully vaccinated and I believe that others should be the same way to protect each other. Each one gotta cover one.”
Boston’s acting Mayor Kim Janey disproves of de Blasio’s plan because it could disproportionately impact black and brown people, and is similar to what enslaved Americans were subjected to below the Mason Dixon line before the Emancipation Proclamation freed them.
Sherry Moses, who identifies herself as a descendant of slaves from the American South, largely understands Janey’s point of view, but broadly agrees with de Blasio’s policy.
“I do respect our mayor’s mandate as long as it’s not selectively enforced,” Moses told the Epoch Times. “My concern is whether the city will disproportionately send inspectors to black-owned or Hispanic-owned restaurants.”
While Quanisha Lamar, an African American who lives and works in Harlem, thinks vaccine passports are a good idea, she also foresees the potential for disputes that target black and Hispanic New Yorkers.
“It’s a little discriminatory because they should be able to take people’s word for it,” Lamar told The Epoch Times. “They look at people of color differently and when they walk in, they might automatically assume you’re not vaccinated or say that something’s wrong with your pass.”