This thought experiment in comparison ponders a Black man’s conviction that his Hebrew identity would make him immune to COVID-19. Surfacing the history of the claims and the scholar’s own suspicions, the paper examines the layered politics of identification. Contra an essentialist understanding of the terms, “Hebrew” and “Hebrews” are shown to be classificatory events, ones imbricated in the dynamics of racecraft. Furthermore, a contextualization of the “race religion” model of 19th century scholarship, 20th century US religio-racial movements, and the complicated legacy of Tuskegee in 21st century Black vaccine hesitancy help to outline the need for inquisitiveness rather than hubris in matters of comparison. In so doing, this working paper advances a model of the public scholar as a questioner of categories and a diagnostician of classification.

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett argues for thinking about Black people’s concern about COVID-19 vaccination as “vaccine Inquisitiveness rather than “vaccine hesitancy.”

Public health experts from Tuskegee, AL theorize about how to compare the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the COVID-19 Vaccine in terms of contrast rather than precedent.


Richard Newton, 2021. “Hebrew, Hebrews, Hubris?: Diagnosing Race and Religion in the Time of COVID-19,” Religions 12. 11. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12111020.