Personal Connection between Medical Terms and Race

Being enrolled in this Top Lit: Lit, Medicine, and Racism, I have learned that topics like race and medicine play a role in other aspects of society. I am also enrolled in a Civil Rights course for my Writing Seminar requirement as a freshman, so there have definitely been connections I’ve made between the two classes. What really inspired me to write this blog post is a word that we’ve discussed in this class that I just read in my Civil Rights class. In an excerpt by James Forman titled The Making of Black Revolutionaries, he interviewed Sam Block, a SNCC worker from the Mississippi Delta (**side note: please look up the book I’ve Got the Light of Freedom by Charles M. Payne if you’re interested in making more of a connection with the literature portion of this course). Forman wrote about Peacock’s experience of a town curfew in Clarksdale, Mississippi, which was one of the more dangerous parts of the South because of how outdated their ideologies were. Peacock recounts, “The meeting lasted until after midnight and this was past the curfew hours. All the Black people in Clarksdale had to be off the streets by twelve o’clock every night and we wondering if there would be trouble. The curfew system in Clarksdale seemed to me the most obnoxious insult to Black people I had ever encountered, something out of the slavery days. I was becoming inoculated against the horrors we had to suffer in the United States, yet new forms of insult and degradation could still leave me staggering” (Forman, Sam Block, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, 288). Can you guess where I made my connection?

I don’t know what made me decide to finally post about a medical term being used in a more socially-focused book that I haven’t experience before in other pieces of literature. Maybe it was how Block interpreted his experience and how learning in class that words like ‘inoculated’ can be incorporated beyond the medical field. Or maybe it was because Block interpreted his experience as a social experiment in itself. Viewing the curfew as a set back for Black people, which it is, and how society theorized that trouble and havoc would occur if a curfew wasn’t set in place. When I saw the word ‘inoculated’ show up in my text for my Civil Rights class, I forgot the meaning of the word but I remembered hearing it in the Top Lit: Literature, Medicine, and Racism course. After searching for the meaning, I remembered that it’s a synonym for ‘being immune or vaccinated’ in the medical field. So the fact that Sam Block, a SNNC worker with no medical experience whatsoever using a medical term to define racism in America was a big connection to me. Forman later on explains how Block felt like the town’s racists were not only affecting him physically, but physiologically as well.

Inoculation of the body physically can be utilized in the social world in certain biased situations as well. Personally, I was disheartened to read about Peacock’s experience with law enforcement and how he became accustomed to this sort of treatment. Overall, it was just interesting to me that I witnessed an example of medicine (term) being related to a race/social issue.


Link to Payne’s book that I mentioned earlier if interested:


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