The Value of Honesty

The will to resist acknowledging the truth about your past can be strong, but the push from the world around you to be truthful is often stronger. In the case of Frank in Home, we see a man unwilling to be honest about his experiences and his actions. In Medical Apartheid, we see a medical system that is still not able to acknowledge its own history. In Home, Frank is at least able to be honest with himself, and with us as readers, about what he has been hiding, but in Medical Apartheid we see that the medical industry is still not willing to recognize what it is founded on. I would argue that this helps explain why Frank seems like he is headed towards a better future, but the medical industry in the U.S. seems to be headed in the wrong direction.

Frank spends the entirety of Home going back and forth between the past and the present. He is never able to sit alone with his thoughts, and those closest to him notice his emotional instability. This is especially apparent when we hear from his ex-girlfriend directly and she describes the life she lived with him, before he left to take care of Cee. There is first his “public explosion (Morrison: 78)” and then the added weight of him not wanting to help with the household chores. She notices that he is hurting but she is never able to find out why. Frank eventually tells us the story of his friend who received oral sex from a Vietnamese child, and ends up shooting her. While it is disturbing to hear, it is more disturbing when we find out that it was actually Frank, and not his friend, who engaged in sex with a child and subsequently shot her. He recognizes how horrific this action was, even saying “How could I let her live after she took me down to a place I didn’t know was in me? (Morrison: 134). Not only does he finally admit that he killed the girl, but he also admits that he took part in a sexual act with a child. This realization comes towards the very end of Home, and after that he was able to reconcile an experience he and Cee had as children, as well as officially find a place to call home. By opening up to the mistakes he had made he was able to at least move on with his daily life, even if he still wasn’t at peace.

Medical Apartheid is a book based solely on the racist acts performed by doctors, scientists, and others involved with slavery or the medical field. We are given example after example of horrific events that took place throughout America’s history, and the examples could go on for what seems like forever. With one of the most famous being the Tuskegee experiment where black men were unknowingly infected with syphilis to see how it spread and what the long-term effects were, to the lesser known cases of Mississippi appendectomies, where women were sterilized under the guise of medical treatment in order to stop them from procreating. Harriet Washington works as a reliable narrator, with all of her claims being backed up by evidence she has found during her research, so we can rely on her to be honest. She has to act as the narrator to show us how awful the treatment of black people has been in the medical field, especially since we are unable to rely on the medical field to be honest with us. The institutions that are related to the torture and abuse of black people are still not willing to accept the history they have, so we must rely on outside sources such as Washington to be upfront.

When Frank is finally willing to be honest with us and with himself, he is able to move forward with his life. Although it doesn’t seem like he is completely at peace with himself or with his actions, he has done the hardest part, which is accepting what happened. The same cannot be said for the medical industry that is described by Medical Apartheid. There is a strong reluctance to accept what has happened in the past, and that means that we have never gone through the hardest part of moving forward as a society. When people like Washington are able to point out the injustices caused by the medical community we can see the clear connections between what happened back then and what is still happening now, but we cannot properly move forward until the institutions that caused this wrongdoing are willing to accept their past with us.

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