Longtime London Rap Legend, Ty, Is The Latest Casualty Taken From Us By COVID-19
On Sunday we’ll find out what the government says is next for all of us. It’s unclear exactly what they’ve decided but most sources are speculating that it will be some sort of re-opening of the economy and a step in the direction of a return to normalcy. But many are scared, worrying that COVID-19 might be similar to the Spanish Flu with a second wave hitting much harder and leaving a dramatically higher death toll than what we’ve seen so far.
And, in the midst of this expectation of eased restrictions and increased fear, we have been hit with the fact that Mercury Prize Nominated UK rapper Ty has died from pneumonia contracted while in an induced coma recovering from COVID-19. In many ways, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Anyone can get this virus. Even Boris Johnson, possibly the whitest man alive, wasn’t immune. But that doesn’t mean that we all share the same experience and risk from this virus. Many are quick to say we’re all in the same boat but it’s more accurate to say we’re all in the same storm; what protection each of us has from the elements varies wildly.
In fact, researchers have discovered that black Britons are four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white Britons. For many white people this may seem like a puzzle in need of solving. But many black people will immediately connect this to centuries of systemic racism inherent in almost every facet and system of British life designed to keep BAME people down. And researchers tend to agree with that black perspective, noting that at least half of the effect they’ve observed is due to socio-economic status, class structure, overcrowding, and other issues directly tied to the average circumstances of minority ethnic groups in British society.
Though it’s impossible for Ty to give commentary on his own death, when we consider his life we see a clear perspective that rings true in even this situation. For instance, Ty (also known as Benedict Chijoke) was a Nigerian born in London but spent many of his formative years being raised by foster parents in Essex as one of 10,000+ West African children relocated from inner city communities to foster families in rural England. The idea was that this freed parents up to be able to work and study to build a better life for their children. When speaking about this experience of being temporarily abandoned, Ty said, “I learned the long way around to love who I am, to love my identity and nationality. I learned with bloodied lips.”
So if I had to hazard a guess as to what advice Ty would speak into this current situation, I think it would have to be something along the lines of, “We have been beaten, we have been bruised, but we have not been defeated. The problem is not your identity, it’s the society that refuses to value your identity. It’s the majority culture that actively chooses to forget that our PM intentionally worked for years to systematically undercut and underfund the NHS just because he later clapped for them in public. These people do not have your best interests in mind, they care only for themselves and holding on to their power. So keep your mind open, keep your eyes open, keep your ears open. And, one day soon, know that you will need to keep your mouths open and raise your voices loud so they know they cannot continue to ignore you.”