In Home, by Toni Morrison, Frank Money appears to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after returning from the Korean War. Money is among many other people who suffer from PTSD. After class discussion on Wednesday, I decided to research PTSD to help me gain a better insight to what Money is experiencing, and the reasons for his actions. Read more
When I first decided to double major and add the English major to my course schedule here at Geneseo, I was told by a friend who was an English student to take your English classes slowly. When I asked her why she stated, “English classes are all different, the professors are different they ask for different things, you expect different things from each class”. So that is precisely what I have been doing, since my freshman year I have been taking one English class a semester, slowly getting through the English major and very quickly getting through my Communication major. Read more
In reading both Medical Apartheid and Home, readers are confronted with a slew of injustices committed against African-Americans. Perhaps none are as gruesome and distressing as the experimentation in female anatomy carried out by white physicians against unwilling black victims. In her novel, Home, Toni Morrison shows us one such grim scene through the eyes of Frank as he looks upon his nearly dead sister, an unwilling victim of “research.” Her life and death struggle is made all the more immediate through Franks calculated approach to helping her, checking for pulse, breathing, and temperature with the familiarity of one who knows things about the dead. (Morrison, 111) However, this scene pales in comparison to the one painted by Harriet A. Washington in describing the exploits of Dr. James Marion Sims. Here, readers are forced to imagine the pain and terror helpless, enslaved women went through under his knife. The details of vesicovaginal fistula are particularly graphic, as are the descriptions of Dr. Sims carving the vaginal region and sewing it up, only to force it open once more as physicians gazed in awe while slaves screamed. (Washington, 64-65)
This brings me to the main argument of this blog. Although this was only one example of abuse, it is symptomatic of early research in the field of Gynecology. Although this may seem strange coming from a male, gynecology has played an important role in my family. Both of my parents are Obstetrician/Gynecologists and although this makes an impartial view of their work impossible, I can attest to the good they have done. Are town is not large and few days go by without strangers thanking my parents for delivering their children or helping them through surgical intervention. It is distressing to learn just how much of my parents field of practice was built upon the pain and brutalization of voiceless women. It brings to question how exactly we can square the good that has come from medical research with the inhumane methods it was derived from? The same question has been raised across history and is well documented in books and media sources, not least of all in critically acclaimed television series like Star Trek: Voyager and games like Mass Effect. My own view on the subject is that such practices are barbaric and should be left in the past, especially with advances in technology making research less invasive and scaring. However, the hardest question is often what to do with research obtained through these immoral means. Some advocate its destruction to discourage others from advancing science at the cost of human life and suffering. I disagree. People willing to sacrifice their humanity for scientific gain are unlikely to be concerned with what others think of their methods. Regardless, there may always be wicked people willing to profit off the suffering of others. Unfortunately this seems to be part of the darker side of human nature. Destroying such research would guarantee that the victims of experimentation died in vain, that nothing good came of their suffering. People who commit these acts should be punished to the full extent of the law for it is truly a crime against humanity, but punishing their victims with obscurity and pointless suffering is an insult. I’m curious as to what other people think? Feel free to comment or bring it up in class.
Ever since we discussed the strategy of the “both/and,” found examples of it from Medical Apartheid, and watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, I have been thinking a lot about how I can apply these concepts to other areas in my life. Read more
Today in separate groups, Dr. McCoy introduced the fact that after the emancipation proclamation, new laws were invented that would allow free slaves to be forced back into slavery. Once the 13th amendment was made, the first section states, ‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duty convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction’ (constitution center) Basically stating, you are a free man or woman, as long as you don’t commit a crime, for if you do, you can be put back into slavery. Outside of stores, there were signs stating ‘No Loitering’, and if someone was seen standing outside of the store (loitering), they could be arrested.
The discussions in our groups today, about which topics resonated with the course title within Home, it was brought up by Grace what ‘vagrancy’ means, homeless, and Frank Money stated as he was escaping the Psych Ward, that he could be arrested for either loitering, being barefoot, or for vagrancy (page 9). Frank was in a mental hospital, but he doesn’t remember how he got there; now Frank is a Korean vet, just out of the war, but he is still being treated lower than dirt, even though he fought for his country. At the Psych ward, his top and jacket were taken, but he still had his pants only because they weren’t effective for suicidal attempts; they took everything he had on him except for his medal (page 8). When thinking of a vet, you immediately think of the respect they deserve for the service they have done for the country, but for Black Vets, they are treated as they were before the war. They are not shown the respect that any vet deserves for putting their lives on the line for freedom. This could be contrasted, for in the novel Home, when Frank is out with Billy from the diner, the police show up, and when the younger policeman notices his medal, tells him to ‘Get lost pal’ (page 37).
As we were discussing examples within Home that relate to the topics in the course title, Sabrina B. and Adaeze brought up an interesting point to consider whilst reading Home. They pointed out that we should think about the overall message of the book and how it relates to the title of Home.
When presented with the word consent, I think of the diverse usage of the word in different situations–consent between partners engaging in intimate relationships, consent for a company to use a photo, consent for a researcher to study an individual’s demographic data, and consent for organ donation after death. The amount of situations that require consent is overwhelming. However, respecting individuals requires consent. Blindly taking action can easily offend someone or cross their personal boundaries.
From what I’ve learned these past few weeks in class is that Black people were never given a break from societal injustices aimed at them for hundreds of years. In the primary school systems, we were taught briefly about American Slavery and the Civil Rights Movement to get a general understanding of our history as a nation. However, no one really questioned other fields, like Biology and Literature, and how they are related to what we’ve learned in History class. Who knew that there are books published around the topics of medical enslavement and unauthorized experimentation. As the weeks go by, I’m sure that I’ll continue to be shocked and disgusted by what events occurred in the past, but for now, I can only hope that the torture finally ends in death. Read more
Chapter five of Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid opens with a description of the disappearance of Casper Yeagin, whose body was donated to the Howard University Medical School for anatomical dissection (as later discovered by his niece). Yeagin had no personal possessions when admitted to the Howard University Hospital, causing him to be registered as John Doe. His John Doe tag resulted in no one stepping forward to claim his body post mortem. Washington refers to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1968, allowing unidentified or unclaimed bodies to be donated to medical schools. The idea that an unidentified body could be donated to a medical school is unfamiliar and surprising to me. While I understand this Act allows for a way to dispose of bodies without them going to “waste”, it led me back to Monday’s class discussion on the display of Fortune’s bones in a museum and if that is truly what Fortune would have wanted for his body. Read more
“I have heard that the Masters beat and scourge them most cruelly. But I have not seen anything of the kind, nor do I believe that it occurs very often. For the southern people as class are Noble minded kind hearted people, as can be found in any country…”
I am appalled by the idea that there were people who thought of slaves in such an ignorant manner. It’s as if white people during that time were in denial of the fact that there were enslaved human beings that were treated brutally by the majority of the people that came from the same race and culture. The mentality that is depicted shows that white people thought that everything was fine because so much was completed for them. No matter how the slaves were treated, their lives were filled of contentment due to how well they were treated.
It’s like when we disregard the fact that there are people dying of hunger on a daily basis or other problems going on in the world. But, because we don’t see it or hear enough about it on the news. We continue to live upon our routine on a daily basis because compared to them we’re more than well off. We know its going on but then we start a ton of theories and trust issues, regarding how to donate and trusting certain websites. Sometimes its just people making excuses so that they can escape being a part of a real life issue.
Another analogy would be how a lot of minorities accept the fact that the majority of people that are incarcerated happen to be African American and Latino. We know and accept this statistic or phenomenon because many African American and Hispanic households are affected by this being such a popularly known conversation in certain communities.
I’d honestly even like to compare this to “To kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, where Atticus goes out of his way ( during the 1960s) to protect a black man who was accused of raping a farmers daughter that he worked for. Whether or not you know something is true, it’s your responsibility to cut the curiosity and attempt to find out whats actually happening if you care about social issues or injustices.
-Evelyn J Mendez