When Harry Met Eubie

"Older populations are whiter," Dr. Harald Schmidt of the University of Pennsylvania proclaimed in early December.  "Society is structured in a way that enables them to live longer.  Instead of giving additional health benefits to those who already had more of them, we can start to level the playing field a bit."

Dr. Schmidt, who teaches at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine and identifies as an "ethicist," did not explain how, exactly, society had been structured in a way that makes "whiter" people live longer.  By implication, blacker people do not live longer.  Dr. Schmidt, meet Eubie Blake. 

The child of parents who had been slaves, Eubie Blake was born in Baltimore on February 7, 1887 and began playing piano professionally at age 16.  About that time, he wrote "Sounds of Africa," his first composition, later retitled "Charleston Rag."

Blake teamed up with Noble Sissle on the 1921 Shuffle Along, a runaway hit and the first Broadway musical comedy with an all-black cast.  Blake went on to compose or collaborate on many songs, including "Memories of You."  He described himself as a smoking "fiend" but showed few ill effects from his "bad habits."

On March 10, 1979, at the age of 92, Eubie Blake appeared on Saturday Night Live and performed "I'm Just Wild about Harry" and "I'm Just Simply Full of Jazz," both from Shuffle Along.  Blake also accompanied Gregory Hines on "Low Down Blues," and the pair brought down the house. 

That year, Blake's life became the subject of the musical Eubie!, and Blake made several cameo appearances.  Eubie Blake passed away on February 12, 1983, a few days after turning 100.  Contrast Blake with Porgy and Bess composer George Gershwin, who passed away on July 11, 1937 at the age of only 38. 

"Whiter" basketball great Pete Maravich passed away in 1988 at the age of 40.  By contrast, on December 19, 2020, African-American actress Cicely Tyson (Sounder) turned 96.  Those cases, and many others, defy Dr. Schmidt's pronouncement that only "whiter" people live to advanced age because society is structured to enable them. 

As the "ethicist" should know, with so many variables in play, there is no color pattern to longevity.  And as African-American economist Thomas Sowell, 90, has often observed, statistical disparities between groups and individuals are the rule, not the exception. 

For Schmidt, a pale skin shade, something that nobody can control, entails some sort of second-class humanity.  Age is also uncontrollable, but Schmidt wants elderly "whiter" people at the back of the line for the vaccine. 

Most troubling of all is Schmidt's belief that medical professionals should "level the playing field a bit."  As Victor Davis Hanson wonders, why level only a bit?  "Why not 'lots' — like denying them COVID-19 vaccinations in timely fashion."  And why stop with vaccinations?

Biden medical adviser Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who identifies as a "bioethicist," is on record that "this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive.  For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to stop."  Tell that to Cicely Tyson, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden. 

In the quest for a COVID-19 vaccine, President Trump launched Operation Warp Speed.  Dr. Harald Schmidt is just plain warped.  The doctor manages to confuse leftist agitprop with medical science.  If those old folks at the end of the vaccine line thought the ethicist was also something of a racist, it would be hard to blame them. 

Lloyd Billingsley is a policy fellow at the Oakland, California-based Independent Institute.

Image: Indiana Univ.