From the readings and discussions in class this quote has gotten me thinking about a variety of issues. The first one that comes to mind is the way people covered up the wrongdoings of the doctors and professors. People were very quick to turn a blind eye to any and all injustices they noticed. This extended to the exploitation of dead black bodies in medical schools to the exploitation of living black bodies in zoos and in circuses. While these injustices were noticed by others, such as abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and James McCune Smith, M.D, only a small portion of those who saw the truth spoke out. This allowed these things to continue on for years to come.
By noticing the wrongs of both the past and of those of the present we are able to right them. When one is made aware of how so many people refused to acknowledge the suffering of a whole community of people, we need to take notice and make sure those around us notice as well. Raising awareness for these issues helps other people notice them as well, and the more people who notice the more voices there will be to challenge what are believed to be “acceptable treatment”. Bringing more people’s attention to the racist nature of these treatments and practices can prevent creating doctors like George Pray, who begin medical school with more humanistic views of the bodies he dissected, yet lost those views because people refused to notice the racist teachings within medical schools. In “Medical Apartheid” by Harriet A. Washington, she exposes all of these injustices and the voices that helped kept people from noticing what was happening. This lead to black iatrophobia to the words of Washington, meaning “the fear of medicine” (pg.21). This fear of medicine is due to the abuse African Americans were subjected to. Black iatrophobia has existed since before the mid-nineteenth century.
My hope in life is to be a psychologist, someone working in a part of the medical community. To do this I have to notice and help my future coworkers notice, anything that prevents people from seeking care. “Mental ailments are destroying blacks, as well: Black women suffer the highest rates of stress and major depression in the nation and suicide rates soared 200 percent among young black men within just twenty years.” (Washington, pg.5) How can I help these people if I refuse to notice the things that scare them away from the help I offer? When I notice, I can get my coworkers to notice. Together we can acknowledge the past and make a healthier environment for African Americans. To help them, we must notice the errors of the past and make sure we right them. To help people we must help make the abuses of the past clear and therefore make it clear we are doing all we can to help keep them from repeating themselves.
As someone who wants to dedicate my life to helping others with their mental issues, it’s my job to understand generational trauma. The experimentation and exploitation of African Americans has spanned generations, from slavery to the 21st century. Because this trauma is more likely to be swept under the rug and ignored, there is no way to heal from it. How could Jamie Gaines and Sarah Cox heal knowing their sister’s body had been stolen? How could Frances Oglesby heal knowing her mother’s remains were still not at rest? How can Bessie Wilborn rest if her bones still remain a spectacle? Until the medical community works to understand the trauma their predecessors inflicted on African Americans the generational trauma will continue and its effects will remain. As someone who cares deeply about the health and welfare of others, to allow this to remain is to willingly allow others to hurt. And that is something no one in the medical field should allow. To notice current abuses, and to acknowledge past ones, creates a safer environment for African Americans as well as other at risk communities.