In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a new variant of the novel coronavirus cropping up in South Africa. Of course, we’re hearing about new variants all over the world at this point, so that’s probably not all that newsworthy. Still, newly minted President Joe Biden doesn’t want to get caught flatfooted by this potential threat so he’s going to aggressively take action. Today he’s signing an executive order banning travel to the United States by anyone from South Africa or who has recently visited there. We all know how this game was played prior to January 20th of this year, so let’s check in with the folks over at NBC News and see how they’re choosing to cover this story, shall we?
President Joe Biden plans to sign restrictions Monday on travel to the United States to mitigate Covid-19 transmission, two White House officials confirmed Sunday.
The ban would prevent most non-U.S. citizens from entry if they have recently been in South Africa, where a new strain of Covid-19 has been identified. The virus has claimed more than 418,000 American lives and infected upwards of 25 million across the U.S., according to an NBC News tracker.
The president is also expected to reinstate broader restrictions that were in effect much of the past year but rescinded by then-President Donald Trump days before his term ended.
Wait a minute, here. Isn’t South Africa a country with a population that’s comprised of a majority of Black people? (The country’s population is 80% Black.) So doesn’t that mean that Biden’s travel ban is raaaaacist? I’m quite sure that’s what we’ve been told for the past four years. We’d better check the record to be sure, though.
What did NBC News have to say back in February of last year when Trump imposed bans on travel from six African countries in addition to China? The title of this article should give you a hint. “Civil rights groups condemn Trump’s travel-ban expansion to six African countries.” The opening paragraph of the article sets the tone right out of the box. (Emphasis added)
Eight civil rights groups have condemned President Donald Trump’s expansion of his travel ban to six majority-Muslim African countries, calling the move racist and unconstitutional.
“The expanded Muslim Ban is another attack on the rights, the dignity and the identity of Black communities,” the groups, including the NAACP, Color of Change and the National Action Network, said in a statement.
Let’s recall how Joe Biden reacted in March of last year when the first travel bans from China and Africa were being put in place. Biden tweeted, “We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus. We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering.”
We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus. We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 1, 2020
How about the rest of the major news outlets? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane for a moment.
New York Times, February 4, 2020. “Opinion | The Racism at the Heart of Trump’s ‘Travel Ban.”
Boston Globe, February 17, 2020. “Trump’s xenophobic travel ban punishes Americans above all.”
Washington Post, February 5, 2020. “Trump’s expanded travel ban is a blow to America’s already tarnished global image.”
CNN, February 5, 2020. “Trump’s latest travel ban is an attack on Africans.”
USA Today, February 26, 2020. “Trump’s xenophobia led to his expanded travel ban”
I could go on for pages but I’m pretty sure you get the idea. Look around those same sites today and see if you find a single one of them talking about discrimination against Black Africans, Muslims, or any other demographic group. Or you can save yourself the time and trouble because you already know what the answer is.
As far as the policy goes, my initial reaction to any new travel bans (at least in the past couple of months) was that we would be closing the barn door after the horses were already out. Every state in the nation has COVID cases now and the vaccines are probably the only thing that’s going to be effective in bringing this thing to heel. But now, with all of these new variants popping up, I’m not quite as sure. We’ve been fairly lucky so far because the vaccines have been successful in blocking the new strains. But will that be true for all of them or will the virus eventually mutate so far that it will be able to ignore them? With that in mind, perhaps a new travel ban might have a chance of preventing something worse, so I’ll support Biden in this decision. Clearly, all of the major news outlets will be doing the same.
Hey… would you look at that? Did I just accidentally engage in… unity? Holy smokes. Joe was right! (Except, of course, that everyone else had to flip their positions 180 degrees to get there.)
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