El Paso’s ‘Black Klansman’ talks COVID recovery, vaccine reluctance within Black community

Hidden History

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — KTSM caught up with El Paso author Ron Stallworth who offered insight on his recent recovery from COVID-19 and offered a message to the Black community when it comes to vaccinations.

Stallworth once infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan while working as a police detective in the Colorado Police Department in the 1970s. His book, “Black Klansman,” was turned into a 2019 Academy Award-winning film.

But last fall, COVID-19 infiltrated Stallworth’s home after both he and his wife Patsy tested positive for the virus. Patsy was hospitalized for two-and-a-half weeks.

“She came very close to losing her life,” said Stallworth, who added he continues to struggle with the after-effects of the virus.

The author was recently vaccinated and says he would like to see the same happen, more often, when it comes to fellow minorities.

Latino and Black communities are falling behind when it comes to vaccinations, according to state and federal data.

Stallworth acknowledges some of that lag stems from skepticism of the vaccine, particularly in the Black community.

“I could understand why minority groups would not trust government resources as a whole,” Stallworth said. “There’s a history behind it. Go back to the Tuskegee Institute Experiment.”

The Tuskegee experiment was carried out by the U.S. government between the 1930s and 1970s. Health authorities used Black men as guinea pigs to see what would happen if syphilis were to be left untreated. Program participants were administered what they believed to be injections of medicine.

They were placebos.

“They let them believe they were being given a drug to help their condition,” Stallworth said.

The U.S. government formally apologized for the experiment in 1997.

Stallworth said the past should not keep people of color from getting their COVID vaccines.

“That dark chapter was ‘then’ and we’re in the ‘now,'” he said. “We need to move forward from that.”

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