New Perspectives and Learning From the Past

The topic of racism is something that has sadly been around for most civilizations’ existence. In this class so far I have been shown a different perspective of the definition of racism as a whole. Geraldine Heng’s definition of racism deals with it in a way to show the horrible purpose of why racism became an idea in forms of society, for control, to isolate groups, and to render them powerless. Our class time has made me curious about why this was necessary in order to control people. With the course’s epigraph in mind, “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.”–Dionne Brand, creates a thought process that makes me think of the goal of the class. The structure of the class itself is to start out with guided discussions and then eventually become more independent within our own abilities and take control of the class time towards the end of class. With a structure like this, the ideas learned in this class will allow thought processes to truly become our own and will hopefully encourage more good faith practices in all areas of one’s life.

The ideas of new definitions for racism that have been introduced to me make me think more about ideas of racism in medicine. I am in a physical therapy program so it has opened my eyes to look out for racism in medicine in my own life. I will constantly be thinking with that mindset whenever I carry out future practices. I will make sure to keep an open attitude to any and all people that future interactions will bring to me. In reference to the course epigraph I will try to make sure my future colleagues can keep the same mindset in their practices. But prior to this, I was not aware of the reality involved in situations that make people afraid of medical places and professionals. I previously was under the false sense that being afraid of the doctor was the cartoon-like idea of a small child being afraid to get their yearly booster shot at the pediatrician. I was completely ignorant of the idea that years of mistreatment and wrongful experimentation occurred to make groups such as African Americans have iatraphobia. The idea that people were used in barbaric ways to gain some medical knowledge is not acceptable no matter the time. So after reading about Sam a slave from chapter four of Medical Apartheid who was strapped to a chair and forcefully used for an experimental test of a medical procedure on his jaw which he in no way consented to (Washington 102 – 103). It amazes me that there were no thoughts about the Hippocratic oath when these individuals in the South practiced medicine. And with the historical contexts of time, people could argue the idea of rights but it’s just peculiar that human decency did not prevail in situations such as Sam’s situation. Similarly, my thoughts about things such as the Hippocratic oath are sparked by readings like this done in Medical Apartheid. The Hippocratic oath has been around since the very early studies into medical practices and is a major point that is stressed to modern medical students. And states that medical professionals who follow this oath will prioritize doing no harm to their patients.

Likewise, I am a biology major who is wrapped up in all of the studies of chemistry and parts of biology that will allow me to go on to be successful in Physical Therapy school and have a good career. But now with a class like this which is a complete switch from all of the chemical bonds and biological processes I can develop new perspectives. In the case of Fortune, it makes me wonder. What if he was given the opportunity to learn and have different perspectives? What if the doctors and people of the time took time to think about the value of a life? And think about how remains should be taken care of to serve a memory. Since I do have an appreciation and interest in medicine I realize that studies need to take place but in a manner where the person themself donates their body or loved ones donate the body for study. In Fortune’s case, there was no love or passion in science for this decision it was purely the lack of usefulness since he could no longer serve in the harsh servitude he was bound to. And knowing that I will have to take an anatomy course that involves a dissection of a human cadaver I would like to learn from the past and be able to do so in a proper and professional manner. Having the ability to properly pay respects to the individual who was kind enough to allow students across the nation, including myself,  to better understand the human body all because of their noble donation. Having the epigraph in mind, I will be looking for ways to get others who are alongside me in the study with the cadaver to see the importance of the sad history that came from old medical practices. In chapter five of Medical Apartheid Washington tells of a man whose body was used for the learning process but was obtained in the most sinister way. The body of Casper Yeagin was donated to science after being mistreated at a hospital and by police all while his family was looking for him. The family was only truly informed of what happened to their uncle after a lawsuit (115 – 116). This furthers my questioning of how individuals could practice such bad faith and not see the error of their ways. Since this was not an isolated group or facility, there were multiple people from different groups who wronged this man and his family and treated him as less all because of the color of his skin. 

Overall I wish to have this course continue to spark new ways of thinking so that people, including myself, can better the field of medicine and all aspects of society. The critical point is to continue to ask questions and be curious about the material to further discussions and improve my own understanding of new perspectives.

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