Current Events

Enforcing Social Distancing Does Not Mean The Policing of Black Bodies

With the recent Coronavirus we are facing, many governors across the nation have called on Americans to “Shelter-In-Place. This mandate calls on citizens to cease gathering in large groups and to practice social distancing when outside your home, and staying at least six feet away from another person that does not live inside your household. In Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear has handled the Coronavirus with graceful leadership, asking on Kentuckians to be “Healthy At Home.” Ideally, unless you must go somewhere essential such as the grocery store, pharmacist, or the doctor’s office, he would prefer that you remain at home to halt the spread of this virus. Many Kentuckians understand the need for staying at home as we have watched this virus spread throughout the world, killing thousands of people. There is even a “tipline” set up in Kentucky where people can call to report on large groups that they see gathering. Governor Beshear encourages people to model “positive behavior” when it comes to reflecting how social distancing and being “Healthy at Home” should look.

Many understand that this is an unnatural and uncommon moment that we are all facing. Not being able to gather in groups, socialize, dine out, visit loved ones, along with the weight of worry that looms over all of us, makes this a very stressful time. Many of us are not just worried about our health and the health of our loved ones; we are concerned about our finances, how we will be able to pay the rent/mortgage, keep the lights on and put food on the table, all when we are facing statewide shutdowns across the nation. I understand the stress many of us feel; however, at no time has Governor Beshear called on ANY Kentucky resident to take it upon themselves to police or assault another individual. 

However, in a recent viral video, Dr. John B. Rademaker and his wife, Dr. Karla Guess, take it upon themselves to yell at a group of young women about their lack of social distancing while Dr. Guess is presumably videoing the incident on her phone. What happens next is jaw-dropping as his wife tussles with the only Black girl in the group, and Dr. Rademaker shoves a young woman. Then Dr. Rademaker gets on top of the Black girl and begins to choke her. My question is, “As doctors, if their concern was REALLY about the safety of social distancing, why get that close to a group of people and why get on top of a Black girl to choke her?” My belief is this incident was never about social distancing because if it were, they wouldn’t have even gotten close to her. 

While many people around the world have posted the video, as a Louisville resident, I believe that people must understand the environment of where this incident took place. This incident did not happen in some downtown, every day space. This incident took place in Norton Commons, a place that is home to people that are predominantly White and highly affluent. It is an area that you do not often see Black people. In fact, I have lived in Louisville for over twenty years, and I have only been to Norton Commons one time, and I was stunned by what I saw. If you have watched The Truman Show, imagine that as this community. Many homes are priced between half a million to a million dollars. It is a community that is intentionally “set apart” from other places in Louisville. Reportedly, the average income is well over $100,000 per year with a racial breakdown of 80% White, 7% Black and a 3.36% poverty rate. As Joshua Poe, Co-Principal Investigator at Root Cause Research Center, states, ” There’s a whole deeper element with Norton Commons being a “new Urbanist” development. Which are essentially wealthy White people wanting all the amenities of the city without having to actually come in contact with Black people, poor people, or any elements that exist in the city. It’s an artificial environment.” 

I believe the impetus behind the assault was not social distancing, but how dare a Black girl show up in this community and not behave as White people expect her to behave?  

Let me be clear as Kentucky and other states continue to fight the Coronavirus, enforcing social distancing does not mean the policing of Black bodies in spaces.

Pause and absorb that sentence. 

And then reread it. 

As we attempt to understand history in dealing with this pandemic, looking back on how America dealt with the 1918 Spanish Flu, let us not forget the history of White people creating slave patrols, which were armed White men who monitored and enforced discipline upon Black people. As stated by Daniel J. Salemson, the slave patrols primary duties, “were to check the passes of slaves and free blacks and break up gatherings of African Americans.” We will not repeat that history. While I understand the importance of EVERYONE staying at home during this time, this call for social distancing is in no way a call for White people to patrol Black people

It is evident the Coronavirus pandemic is going to reach a level of darkness many of us have never witnessed, before we start to see the dawn. While Kentucky is trying to model “positive behavior,” that does not mean White people have been deputized to police Black people. I clearly understand the need for social distancing and speak on it often, however, it is not a White person’s job today or any day to feel as if they can police and/or assault a Black person for merely existing in a public space. That is NOT your job!

For those people online offering sympathy to this man let me pull a page from Matthew McConaughey’s closing speech in the movie A Time To Kill.

“Now I wanna tell you a story. I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen deeply to what you are thinking as you read this story.

This is a story about a Black girl hanging out with her friends in an affluent neighborhood. I want you to picture this Black girl. If you are here reading this blog and claim to “love my work” picture my daughter because it could have EASILY been her with a White man’s hands around her neck.

So just imagine, a Black girl just hanging out doing what young people do. Granted it is a pandemic and we have been tasked to social distance but EVEN ADULTS aren’t complying to that mandate. So it is within REASON to understand that young people may have a difficult time separating now.

Suddenly two White individuals, a husband and wife, approach the group of girls and start yelling at them about staying apart from each other due to the pandemic. The Black girl’s friends try to calm the man and his wife down, telling them that they will leave. However, the White woman approaches the Black girl and starts fighting her. The White male doctor pushes one of the girls that is in the group and proceeds to get on top of the Black girl and wrap his hands around her neck, choking her. The Black girl is laying on the sidewalk as her friends try to get him off of her.

Can you see her? On her back? Scared? Vulnerable? Fearful? All while a grown White man is on top of her with his hands wrapped around her neck.

Can you see her? I want you to picture that Black girl. SEE HER because that is a part of the problem-many White people NEVER SEE Black girls or women.

Now imagine if the doctor was a Black man and the young girl was White and this Black man had his hands wrapped around a young White girl’s throat. Would the media be blurring his face? Would the police have arrested him on the scene? What would the headlines be? Would anyone be defending him? Would YOU be defending him?

Think about it…

Dr. John Rademaker

Follow Up: Dr. John Rademaker was arrested and charged with first-degree strangulation and three counts of harassment with physical contact. He was released from jail later Tuesday, April 7, 2020 on a personal recognizance bond, according to online court records.

8 replies »

  1. Remember, it’s only been a short forty or so years that white people (at least those who loved before the Civil Rights Act) have been receiving any pushback at the idea of policing black bodies, especially compared to the 250 or so years, when they were allowed to do so with complete impunity. The Millennials (or possibly my generation, which are all those born after the Civil Rights Act) are really the first generation of white people to grow up with the idea of black bodily autonomy.

    This is why you see a little less of this kind of behavior from young white people, who have gotten the message, loud and clear, that black bodies are not their business, are not to be touched, and if so, hands are going to caught! The older generations still think they can do what they use to do, and use any and every excuse to take their frustrations and resentments out on black bodies.

    F*ck the assholes giving this man sympathy! I don’t give a good hot damn what he’s going through because things are stressful for all of us, and you don’t see the rest of us out here acting like this man! He chose her because he certainly believes nobody gives a shit about a young black girl, especially when he had multiple targets! He shouldn’t have ever touched this child, no matter what her race. That she was black, simply complicates an already f*cked up situation.

    • Precisely. He targeted her. People online were trying to say he was stressed. We all are stressed!!! Had a Black man did that to a White girl he would be arrested so fast! And people certainly wouldn’t be defending him.

      • Another way I know those people are on some bullsh*t, is I know, for an absolute certainty, that had it been a group of black males, he would’ve kept his distance! White men like him love to walk around acting like they’re such total bad asses, but crumble like paper in the presence of black men. They clearly understand that grown black women ain’t the one to mess with either, so they attack kids!

        Yeah, those are real tough guys!

  2. Imagine this person being responsible for providing medical care and/or saving a black person’s life.

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