From What I’ve Learned

Throughout this semester, I can say without a doubt that my writing style and sense of critical thinking has significantly improved. Prior to this course, I thought that I was a terrible writer and that I would never break free of my grammatical rut. Luckily, this course provided positive feedback, both online through blog posts and in the classroom in group discussions, that allowed me to realize that progress is an obtainable goal. Not only have I grown as a writer, I feel like I’ve become more aware of how institutions, especially the medical field, in today’s society have come to be. Even though there are some people in who are too blinded by America’s dark history, I’m glad that I was a part of a conversation with others who were willing to acknowledge our past. As Colson Whitehead mentioned in Zone One about the “American Phoenix,” I can only hope that one day, we too as a nation, can raise up from the ashes and reestablish ourselves in a united manner (Whitehead, 61).In my previous blog post, I focused more on what we’ve learned the second half of the semester, which was medical voluntourism. Now, I want to go back further and discuss medical experimentation and how racism has played a role. Even though we’ve done the reading and research that goes along with this, it’s important to keep reiterating points made about this ugly practice. After this class ends, I hope that people don’t just abandon this conversation and ignore it, like others in the past have already attempted to do.

Maybe I’m just too attached to this topic now that I’ve learned more about it. Sure, I already knew that mistreatment afflicted onto African Americans throughout the years was prominent in the medical field. However, I wasn’t aware of radiation trials occurring so close to my hometown of Le Roy, NY. “Unsuspected patients in private and public hospital— from Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, to Vanderbilt University Hospital’s prenatal clinic in Nashville— were injected with plutonium infused with fluorine or otherwise used as subjects in various experiments to calibrate the physical damage associated with various dosages of radioactive matter” (Washington, 219). There are probably hidden secrets about thousands of other medical institutions across the country that carried out such horrendous projects, but the reason why this hit so close to home for me was the fact that Strong Memorial Hospital was the hospital where I was born. I was shocked to say the very least.

These case studies might’ve carried out during the 1940s and 1950s after the war (i.e. Tuskegee Trials, Manhattan Project, bio-nuclear and chemical weapons), but some doctors get away with these unethical programs to this day. It might necessarily be as black and white as the non-consensual experiments we’ve discussed, but certain elements of racism are present due to de facto segregation (by standard rather than law). People in Lowndes County, Alabama are affected due to housing near raw sewage, which has been causing locals to be infected with hookworm and other diseases. If it wasn’t for the housing segregation (Lowndes County is located in what is referred to the “Black Belt” of the South) being evidence enough of how poorly African Americans have been treated, both in the past and now, then I don’t know what will spark an interest for people to help out.

It might just be in my nature to want people, regardless of race, religion, gender, creed, etc., to be treated equally in society. Honestly, I’m just disheartened that we, as Americans, are living in the most powerful nation in the world and there are people, like Lowndes County citizens, who continue to struggle for generations because no one seems willing to help. Hopefully, one day when I’m a civil rights lawyer, I can initiate or aid in the change needed to make sure no one lives in conditions like this and that their voices aren’t ignored.

Once again as I reflect on my semester’s work in this class, I am proud of how far I’ve come as an individual, how much I’ve willingly interacted in group discussions, and how much I’ve learned in class overall. I plan on spreading this knowledge to those wanting to educate themselves more on America’s past, even if that means uncovering the ugly truth. Overall, I’m glad that I took this class and took away many life lessons in the process.


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