In the early days of COVID-19, we saw everyone watching coronavirus outbreak news, exchanging conspiracy theories and WhatsApp videos, and fighting the panic and boredom that comes with social distancing and quarantine. In precarious times like these, we need some positive news. Well, meet Doctor Kizzmekia Corbett. She went viral around March 3rd, as the lead scientist of a coronavirus vaccine development team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). President Donald Trump visited the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the NIH, for an update on her research. Her team is conducting clinical trials of the vaccine, and hope to have a working model for the spring of next year. As of May 2020, there are more than 100 potential coronavirus vaccines being tested at record speeds.
According to the Kenyan Report, Kizzmekia was born in a small town in North Carolina to a single mother. Despite any challenges faced in this life, she rose up and succeeded despite the circumstances. She worked hard in her studies, and later received a full-ride scholarship to study biology. Look at her now, giving updates on the outbreak to the President of the United States. Our lovely doctor is beautiful, dark-skinned, intelligent and happily married. She is an amazing representative of black female excellence. At a time like this, she should be celebrated for her strides and achievements. I have heard reports that she is in an interracial relationship as well, but I was unable to confirm that information at this time.
I must say that this is the kind of content that I like to see: black women thriving. Can you imagine us being seen as playing a pivotal role in the betterment of society? Instead of throwing fists in the air, screaming, and confronting members of law enforcement, we can bask in our beauty and brains, leveraging both to influence society as whole. I am extremely proud of Kizzmekia and I hope that she goes on to do amazing things. I thought I would include one of her past interviews below, for your enjoyment:
Internet Outrage and Cancel Culture
There was a moment in time when there was trouble on the horizon. For a time, she was under active investigation. Kizzmekia ended up being a victim of internet outrage and cancel culture, two banes of my existence. As with anyone who goes viral for any reason, the idle hands of this world decided to conduct a witch hunt into a person who has come into the limelight, seeking to find any kind of damaging information from their past and to bring it to the light.
I thought to bring this story forward at the height of the scandal, but I really wanted to wait to see what happened, or at least until things had quieted down somewhat. The Washington Post reported several of Kizzmekia’s tweets. For instance, on Feb. 27, she critiqued the diversity of Trump’s coronavirus task force and the strategy some medical professions were using to treat black people during this time.
Her tweets got widespread attention when they were read on Tucker Carlson’s show on FOX News, and she received a slew of widespread negative attention. She ended up making her twitter account private during the controversy. Articles emerged stating that she was under investigation and she subsequently disappeared from the spotlight and media circuit. The Washington post also noted the following within their post: “Since the controversy, Corbett has scaled back her use of social media. She stopped appearing on television, and the NIAID declined to make her available to The Washington Post for an interview, saying a deluge of requests threatened to interfere with her work.”
Social Media Tips
I am a social media enthusiast. All of my employment has in some way, connected with social media. Even outside of work, I am very passionate about online engagement in this current age. While I’ve seen the potential for each platform, I can see the detriments of the system as well. As such, I definitely have some thoughts about her use of social media. That said, my social media is not perfect either. This critique is an admonishment for you and for me.
I will say that I do hate people potentially losing jobs and post-secondary education admissions and other opportunities for stupid things they do online. Thankfully, that did not happen to Kizzmekia here. On May 11, she facilitated a webinar, “STEM Excellence at the Forefront of Combatting COVID-19,” where she discussed her work as a scientist and answered questions from students in the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM, presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I loved her thoughts on social media critique within this article:
“When asked about responding to haters on Twitter or other social media platforms, Corbett took exception to calling them haters.
“Some people are never going to be satisfied, and so that’s why you’re going to have to satisfy yourself. I think that criticism is something that – as hard as it is to take sometimes, it is something that we should all heed to, no matter from whom it comes. Of course, everyone does not have your best interests at heart.” Corbett said her parents reminded her that when her scholarships were announced in high school, people were booing.
“People are going to hate what they can’t compete with, period,” Corbett said.” Just let your work speak for itself and keep it moving. That’s all you can do.””
I am a personal believer in freedom of speech and a separation of private life and professional life, but I am aware that the real world does not quite work like that. Christelyn highlights this issue within the original Pink PIll course (Chapter 13) and the Pink Pill for College course (Chapter 11). Christelyn just wrote a post on this as well. She gives practical tips on If you have not yet purchased these programs, I would highly recommend that content. If not, I would like to share with you some tips for free.
People have connected with me, wanting to be friends or even more than friends online. Why? They can see what I have chosen to share on social media. They can see my thoughts and make an assumption on my values. Sometimes, people try to convince me that I should leave social media behind, but I can link about 85% of my job opportunities to my social media accounts. That said, be wise out there, friends. I have seen way too many people investigated on Twitter for the foolishness they have done on this app, particularly during quarantine time. This is the one time I am glad that all of my jobs know what I am up to on social media.
Don’t Be Too Woke For Your Own Good
In the first article I read about Kizzmekia on NBC news, I noticed that she had a section of her article with a “Celebrities: They are just like us!” section. If you have ever read a tabloid magazine, you will know what I am talking about. I understand that this article might have used bits of her personal life to humanize her and her experience, but, to me, it seemed like she was sending subtle messages to the black community. I do not know about you, but I have never seen a leading research scientist take the time in a feature article to highlight their favourite rapper or mention grabbing emergency weave in preparation for the coronavirus. I truly believe that she was going for a relatable edge, but this angle was not it for me.
Also, the esoteric content (see the tweets above) was not appropriate for her station. That would be like the Chief Finance Officer of McDonald’s tweeting about the evils of factory farming, PETA, hormones and animal byproducts’ negative effects on the human brain, growth and development. Is what they are saying true? Maybe. However, as my mom would say, “Nuh everything good fi eat, good fi talk. (Not everything good to eat is good to talk.)” You do not have to discuss everything in your mind, particularly content that puts your job and general industry in a negative light. Also, as my dad would say, “Mi cum yah fi drink milk, mi nuh cum yah fi count cow. (I come here to drink milk, I do not come here to count cows.)” We don’t have to concern yourself with things that are honestly none of your business. Just do your joke, make your money and go home. You can try to use a private account, a fake name, private groups to live your life, but none of these methods are 100% secure. Just approaching things with caution.
I understand that she wanted to fight for her people, but the best thing that she could do for her people, in the position that she is in, is keep quiet, post content that is work friendly, and continue to work on the vaccine. That will literally save thousands of black lives. Thankfully, she has now decided to do that, and I wish her the best.
Be Irreplaceable and Build Strategic Allies
Kizzmekia has been praised by her contemporaries and those who knew her before her 15 minutes of fame. Prior to her controversy, she made strategic moves to position herself as the face of COVID-19 vaccination initiative, and to join one of the most prestigious research teams in the country. Even despite the scandal, her team continues to have her on the team, providing valuable and strategic insight. I truly believe that Kizzmekia has either created an amazing niche for herself, where she is currently irreplaceable, or she has friends in high places. Despite a healthy level of cringe on my part, in the writing and research of this post I find myself still really liking Kizzmekia. I wish her all the best, and I look forward to seeing where she goes next in her career.