Unfortunately Ironic

Whilst discussing how we can connect Zulus and Medical Apartheid last week, I came across two quotes from the books that eerily seemed to connect.On page 151 of Medical Apartheid, Washington states, “Still, it was much safer and healthier to be a black soldier than a black civilian.” The irony of this statement really floored me. The fact that African American people were safer going to war than being at home with their family made me wonder how mistreated these people were where their basic needs were better fulfilled when fighting for a country that does not provide for them. This made me think of what Kevin says to Alice in Zulus after she runs away from the rebel camp: “I think I have to get you back into the city” (p. 119). Once again, this statement was ironic to me since Alice goes to the rebel camp to run away from the city in the first place. Yet after all that trouble, she must go back to where the original danger resides in order to be safe from the rebels. This reminded me of the African Americans who had gone to hospitals to be treated yet they ended up either never leaving again or leaving even more wounded because they were dragged into medical experiments they were not even aware of participating in.

I had mentioned this to the small group we had this past Wednesday and Max responded with a saying I think that quite fits this predicament. He said, “we’re safer when we’re in danger.” To further elaborate, chapter ten of Medical Apartheid touches upon the exploitation of the incarcerated in medical experiments. Even though it was clearly detrimental to their wellbeing, “many prisoners opposed a ban” of the removal of medical experimentation on inmates (p.265). It is clear here once again that individuals were willing to undergo the hurtful experiments without much explanation of what was being done to them in order to remain in humane conditions that provided “real money…obtain health care…the safety and amenities of the research laboratory…to feel they were contributing to society” (p. 266). With this, I realize how fortunate I am to not be able to empathize with the inmates who would risk personal health and future consequences to have a haven in which they were ensured adequate healthcare and living conditions as well as both Alice and the African American soldiers.

I would also like to connect this concept to the topic of medical voluntourism we discussed in class today. The articles further emphasized how what was supposed to be good for the patients at the volunteer destinations only benefited the volunteers themselves. In Teju Cole’s article, Matt pointed out a certain quote I believe relates to my point: “If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.” Although the volunteers who attend such trips participate because they genuinely feel that they are improving the quality of someone’s life, the receivers of such assistance find themselves relying solely on the help of the volunteers rather than utilizing the resources provided to become self-sufficient. Someone from the group made the comparison between the volunteers and the doctors who conducted the infamous experiments against inmates and/or African Americans. (My memory failed me so I apologize to the individual whose work I could not cite.) The doctors also believed their experiments were benefiting society, the “subjects” who were experimented on, and the medical field just like how the volunteers feel gratified through their activities without addressing the future consequences that are placed upon the recipient. It makes me wonder if both the doctors and students/volunteers were aware of the consequences of their work, would that deter them from continuing their work or would they turn a blind eye to the situation to further their own interests? Is this solely due to the lack of awareness or is there a rooted problem that is not being addressed? I was confused at the fact that Dr. Muench sent us an article that seems to dissuade individuals from taking part of the voluntourism program that our school funds. I hope to see if Wednesday clarifies her intention behind sending us the article that she did and her views on this topic.

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