In the beginning of the semester, I had no idea what to expect with the class Medicine and Racism. I’ve never thought about these two topics coming together and having anything in common, but I was wrong. As we read books such as Medical Apartheid and Fortune’s Bones, I found myself getting more and more interested each class. I found myself making connections and asking questions that I wouldn’t usually be asking.
When I first started this class, I was naive, just like Cee from Home. I did not understand how much of a privilege it was to have all of the available medical care we have today. Coming into this class I was much more like Cee than I’d like to admit, I never thought doctors would disrespect patients who were persons of color on purpose. I always assumed that doctors in the medical field would treat everyone equally, but I was so wrong. While reading Medical Apartheid it was disturbing to hear about what African Americans had to go through when it came to hospital visits and procedures being done to them. So many Africans Americans are afraid of the people in the medical field still to this day. I grew up knowing when I was sick, I could go to the doctor and they would take care of me and give me antibiotics that would treat the sickness. “…African Americans did not need me or anyone else to inculcate a fear of medicine. Medical history and practices had long since done so(Washington,22).” African Americans were not able to get this benefit and in fact feared for their lives when they were forced to go to a doctor. Some African Americans still fear going to the doctor, to this day, because of all of the racism in the medical field throughout history. There are some doctors taking steps to fix this, for example Dr. Zia Okocha. Dr. Zia Okocha said, “This Black History Month, I implore my colleagues to not only take time to recognize the contributions of Black people in the United States, but also to acknowledge the many ways Black bodies have involuntarily contributed to medical advances we take for granted.” Dr. Zia Okocha wants to inform his coworkers all about the history of African Americans involved in the medical field. Dr. Zia Okocha has noticed how African Americans are constantly judged for their decisions in regards to their health and believes it’s time for this to change. Dr Zia Okocha has read Medical Apartheid and looked more into the Tuskegee Study to understand the many ways African Americans were abused and exploited by the medical system. While we unpacked and got more in depth in Medical Apartheid, the truth was so shocking. Throughout history African Americans were always given the “short end of the stick.” They were constantly disrespected and tortured and I knew this in regards to slavery but I never thought about what it would be like for African Americans in connections with the medical field. One example of when African Americans had been tortured was when women were being forced to be sterilized without giving consent. In Medical Apartheid, Wasington tells the reader about Fannie Lou Hamer. “…Hamer had lost more than a tumor while unconscious-the surgeon had removed her uterus, rendering Hamer sterile(Washington,190).” Fannie Lou Hamer was unconscious when the doctor removed her uterus so there was no way for Hamer to give consent. The doctor had no right to do this to Hamer and there was no reason for him to remove Hamer’s uterus.
Medical Apartheid opened my eyes and allowed me to see the struggles African Americans went through in medical care, and still go through today, when it’s something I don’t even question. Racism in the medical field is still a big issue today, there are still cases of African Americans being treated differently or poorly. The medical field is supposedly full of people who are there to help you get better, but this wasn’t always the case. African Americans were used as subjects in medical experiments and were forced to be poked and prodded for doctors selfish reasons. “Other experiments involve nontherapeutic tests that are not designed to help the experimental subject(Washington,55).” Doctors were using African Americans as subjects and were treating them like they were not humans and did not have feelings. Although doctors did ask for the patients consent, they typically did not give all of the information and did not tell the patient everything that would be done to them. “Physicians did typically ask a patients consent to conduct experiments, but they did not explain their reasoning or detail their intent(Washington,55).” This led me to question the whole idea of consent. While I read this quote from Medical Apartheid, it reminded me of the deception studies that Ben Chapman had conducted. Ben Chapman used deception studies when he conducted an experiment to show how easy it was to spread bacteria just by washing a chicken. Chapman did get the subjects consent, but he did not give them all of the information about this experiment. Chapman figured that if he told the people what he was looking for, they would change how they washed the chicken. Chapman used a genetically bred non pathogenic E. Coli in his study, he used this because it had minimal risks. One man in the study was upset when he found out that the E. Coli was involved in the experiment and he was not told about it. The man did give consent to be used in the experiment but he was not told everything about the experiment, just like how the African Americans were not told everything that was being done to them.
I feel that the reason I was like Cee was because, like her, I was protected from all of the danger. Frank protected Cee for as long as he could from all of the danger that the world threw their way. In a way, I was also protected, my skin color protected me from going through the fear that African Americans had to face. I cannot begin to understand what these people had to go through and the torture and pain they had to deal with all because of the color of their skin. I have never thought twice about going to a doctor when I was sick, or not being told all of the information about the antibiotics prescribed to me. Taking this class was a wake up call for me, just like Cee’s wake up call was Prince, and Dr. Beau. Cee started to see that not everyone was there to help her, some people used her for their own selfish needs. Prince used Cee to get the car, and Dr. Beau used Cee for his experiments. By taking this class, I started to see problems in this world that I have never thought about and never even noticed.
While reading Zulus, I noticed how much the society judged Alice Achitophel. Alice did not look like everybody else so the society treated her like she was not a human being and did not have feelings. They ridiculed and picked on Alice all because she was different in their eyes.“No one ever sat next to Alice Achitophel, not even for warmth on such days as this, and the riders had long ceased casting suspicious and accusing looks her way, so she thought of herself as being alone on the tram, thought of it as her tram(Everett, 21).” No one is sitting next to Alice on the tram and instead, choose to stare at her and mock her. Alice was so kind but no one took the chance to get to know her because they were so busy judging her based on her looks. She was just trying to sit on the tram and get to her destination but the other people on the tram were not welcoming to her. As I read how the society treated Alice, it made me think of how I judged this class in the beginning of the semester. When I picked up my books for the class they all looked very boring and like something I normally would not pick out to read. But just like how the society judged Alice based on her looks, I caught myself judging these books by their covers. As we read the books though, I found myself enjoying them and excited to read them and discuss them in class the next day. I enjoyed reading Zulus, Clay’s Ark and Home the most. Although at times I was frustrated with the books and the events happening, it made the class discussions so much more interesting because I was getting everyone else’s thoughts and opinions on the reading.
Taking this class has helped me develop not only as a student, but as a writer. In the beginning of the semester I was quiet and did not like talking in our groups, but as the semester went on, I was getting more involved and talking more in class and sharing my thoughts on the readings. Not only did I become more confident in sharing my opinions in class, I became more confident with my writing. Writing the public blogs and getting feedback helped me a lot throughout the semester. I went to office hours with the teaching assistants and asked them what I could fix to make my blogs better. Dr. McCoy’s feedback helped me tremendously as I continued to write my blogs. Seeing what I could fix to become a better writer made me more confident in the work I published.