Reflective Writing

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.

This Isn’t just Data, They are People

Throughout this semester, I have noticed so many different connections between the different books we read, but after I listened to Ben Chapman’s podcast, I forgot about all of the information regarding it. I let it go to the back of my mind until recently, I relistened to the podcast Food Safety Talk Podcast Episode 163 and found so much new information that I did not catch the first time I listened to it. One connection that really stuck out to me was between the salmonella case, and Alice Achitophel from Zulus.

When I listened to Ben Chapman’s podcast, I found the story about the lady’s son who got sick from salmonella particularly interesting. Her son was in his twenties when he got sick. Her son was dealing with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and he didn’t get better right away. After about a week he got better, but then he started experiencing back and sciatic issues. He went to the hospital and stayed there for three days, during that time he was getting MRI’s done and had a needle put directly into the part of his back that was hurting. This resulted in the doctors finding he had salmonella and the infection was mainly around his spine. The salmonella had migrated from his gut to other parts of his body, so while in the hospital he was treated for sepsis. The man’s mother wanted to find out more about salmonella and see if he was part of an outbreak. She contacted Ben Chapman asked him what steps she could take to figure out if he was part of an outbreak. Chapman told her to follow up with local public health and the state health lab and ask if any of it was uploaded to Pulsenet and if there were any matches and where the matches were. The primary health provider hadn’t received anything back and was still waiting for a call back. After the primary health provider still hadn’t gotten a call back, the mother had looked on Pulsent herself but did not find anything. When the mother called Chapman and told him she couldn’t find anything Chapman thought “Of course not…it’s not there.” Chapman met with a food safety public health epidemiologist who had told him as soon as they link a bunch of things together and find the food type, they are out and not interested in going back and working with those patients or the food industry to figure out what had caused it. Chapman had said that no one takes the next steps of letting people know that they are a part of this, this can provide answers or closure. Also, doing something about it to move backwards to figure out what the root causes were, source attribution, and the contributing factors. These are steps that need to be taken to head in the right direction. The food safety public health epidemiologists seem to forget that the data they receive is a human being. The person probably wants to know the reason they got the infection and learn more about it. The mother of the man who had salmonella was unable to find anything out about the salmonella her son had been infected with. The need for speed to get the data seems to be more important than the person involved. The food safety public health epidemiologist said that after they find the information they need, they are done. What about the people connected to the data? They want answers regarding the infection and unless they know someone from the inside, they are left in the dark. It seemed that the need for data was more important than the people involved, even though it is someone’s life.

As I listened to Ben Chapman tell us about the data it made me think of Zulus,with Alice Achitophel. Once Alice got to the camp, no one seemed to care about Alice, all they cared about was her baby. Alice was treated so poorly by the people at the camp, one person who stuck out to me was Body-woman Rima. Body-woman Rima was focused on the baby and didn’t care about Alice. “We’d best be careful, it might be harmful for us to breathe it in for too long a time(Everett,90).” Body-woman Rima was examining Alice to see if she actually was pregnant, she did not care about Alice’s feelings and spoke out about Alice’s stench to the point Alice was holding back tears. Once the camp received the information they needed, just like the food safety public health epidemiologist, they were done. Body-woman Rima did not seem to care about Alice and just worked fast to get the data she needed, just like the need for speed to get data, not caring about the people involved. Alice was tossed aside and forgotten, just like other important questions regarding the root of the infection, source attribution, and contributing factors in the food industry. “Alice Achitophel looked at the white walls, bare and clean and without windows(Everett,102).” Alice was taken to this plain room and was told it was a guest room, when in reality it was a room to trap Alice so she would not leave the camp. If they had treated Alice right from the beginning, then maybe ALice wouldn’t want to leave and they wouldn’t have to trap her to keep her there, but the people at the camp do not care about Alice, they just want her child. “And here, what will they do for me here? Probe me to death? Plow and harvest me like a field? And what after all this I give birth to a dead thing? Will I be dropped, left to starve somewhere in the territory(Everett,103)?” This also reminded me a lot of the salmonella case with Ben Chapman, Alice would be used to gather data, no one seemed to realize that she was a human-being. Once they got the data they needed from Alice, or the child, they would be done with her just like the food safety public health epidemiologist explained how once they link a bunch of things together, they are done and not interested anymore. The camp would not be interested in Alice anymore and would not care what would happen to her after she had her child.

As I listened to Ben Chapman’s podcast and about the man who had salmonella, I felt bad for the man. His data was used but he did not get the closure he deserved, he did not get answers to his questions because, like Alice, once they got the data they needed, he was forgotten and tossed to the side. Alice’s data was her child, once the camp had that, she would also be forgotten.

At What Age is Consent Okay to be Given?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of consent is: compliance in or approval of what is done or proposed by another. Consent is a very important concept, and we all know that one cannot give consent when under the influence, or when they are unresponsive, but at what age is a person able to give consent?

Throughout our readings this semester, we ran into multiple occasions where the person giving consent was very young, so how do we know that they can make a decision that has a huge impact on their life? In Home, by Toni Morrison, Cee made a very big decision to marry Prince. When Cee agreed to get married, she was only fourteen years old. “Besides, Prince loved himself so deeply, so completely, it was impossible to doubt his conviction. So if Prince said she was pretty, she believed him. If he said at fourteen she was a woman, she believed that too(Morrison, 48).” This quote proves that Cee was taken advantage of by Prince. Perhaps if Cee was older and more mature, she wouldn’t have felt the need to rush into something with Prince and feel she had to marry him so soon. “But he never warned her about rats(Morrison, 52).” This quote is telling the readers about Frank, Cee’s brother and although he did his best to protect her, he never warned her about rats, Prince, in fact was the rat she was not warned about. At age fourteen, Cee was nowhere near being mature enough to make such a big decision, especially because Prince was the first man who gave Cee attention, so this probably had a big impact on her decision as well. Cee’s family was disappointed in her and upset that she did not have her car anymore since Prince took it and left Cee alone. When Cee returned home without the car, her family threatened to have her arrested, after this, Cee promised herself she would never return home. This is all a domino effect because Cee decided to leave her hometown and move in and marry Prince. Cee marries Prince, then he takes her car and leaves her, and because of this, Cee’s family is angry at her and basically disowns her. Although this domino effect does not stop with Cee’s family disowning her, it leads Cee to get a job with Dr. Beau. Cee does not have any money because she relied on Prince to take care of her, but when he leaves she knows she needs to make money. Cee hears about Dr. Beau and decides to go apply for the job, even though she does not know what the job is. When Cee goes to Dr. Beau’s house to apply for the job, there are some red flags Cee should have caught to keep herself out of a dangerous situation. Some of these red flags included, the books on Dr. Beau’s bookshelf, the titles were, Out of the Night, The Passing of the Great Race, and lastly, Heredity, Race, and Society. Another red flag included the word eugenics was brought up multiple times, Cee said she would have to look up this word but if she did she would have found out that it is: the practice or advocacy of controlled selective breeding of human populations (as by sterilization) to improve the population’s genetic composition(Marriam-Webster Dictionary). When Frank rescued Cee from Dr., Beau, she was unconscious and had little to no pulse. “But when she noticed Cee’s loss of weight, her fatigue, and how long her periods were lasting, she became frightened enough to write to the only relative Cee had an address for(Morrison,113).” This quote is from Sarah, she was also the help at Dr. Beau’s household. Sarah did not know what Dr. Beau was doing to Cee, but she knew it was affecting Cee’s health tremendously. Dr. Beau was experimenting on Cee and trying dangerous procedures on her without concern about what it was doing to Cee. Cee making one decision at such a young age and with little thought and not thinking about the consequences had such a huge impact on Cee’s life. This one decision caused her to almost lose her life. Cee agreeing to marry Prince had a domino effect on Cee’s life and had a negative impact on Cee’s life. Cee needed money because Prince left her and she was all alone, so she turned to a job that she had little knowledge about and caused her so much physical and emotional pain just so she could make money. In Cee’s case, the age of consent needed to be older than fourteen, Cee had no past experience to make such a big life decision, because she was sheltered for most of her life from men because of Frank, her older brother.

Another big controversy involved in the age of consent is in Clay’s Ark. The big question is whether Jacob and the other infected children can make decisions for themselves, or if they are too young to make them. The children were not even allowed to make decisions about their own lives, the adults of the community made all of the decisions for them. The kids did not get a choice whether or not they got to be infected with the disease, they were born with it. The children were not born fully human and had many cat-like abilities. A new species was born when these children were born but they did not get to decide if this was a life they wanted to live, they were forced to live a life where they looked different than other people and acted different. While reading Clay’s Ark, I started to question if I would be upset that I did not get a choice that made such a huge impact on my life. What is Jacob and the other children did not want to be infected with the organism, they didn’t even get a choice because they were born with it. “Disease-induced mutation. Every child born to them after they get the disease is mutated that way(Butler, 512).” This quote proves that none of the children get to make that decision for themselves, the parents made the choice for the kids, even if that’s not what they wanted. Blake described the children as, “not human” and had even questions, “Jesus, what are you breeding back there(Butler,512)?” This reminded me of another blog post I wrote about society judging people who look and act differently than what is considered “normal.” Here is a perfect example of it, Jacob and the other children do not look like Blake so Blake thinks they are “freaks” or “animals” as Rane had referred to Jacob. This could be another reason the children would want to decide whether or not they were infected with the disease. Although the adults infected do look different than other non-infected people, the children look completely different than either of them. “He stopped in front of her-beautiful child head, sleek catlike body. A miniature sphinx. What would it be when it grew up? Not a man, certainly(Butler, 524).” While reading this I was shocked that they did not even consider Jacob a boy, rather an it. Blake and Rane were not used to seeing children look like Jacob, so what would the rest of the world think when more “Jacobs” are made? The children infected such as Jacob, walk on their four legs instead of two. When Rane asked Lupe if Jacob could walk on his two feet alone, Lupe answered, “Not so well… He tries sometimes because we all do, but it’s not natural to him. He gets tired, even sore if he keeps at it. And it’s too slow for him(Butler, 523).” These children do not function like humans and other infected adults within the community. The children look more like animals than humans, which eliminates the children’s choice of living a life by normal standards. Do the parents have the right to make this decision for the children? Jacob was only four years old but was so much more mature for his age. “…but he was less clumsy with them than a normal child would have been. He was certainly much faster than a normal child, probably faster than most adults. All his movements were smooth and graceful(Butler, 524).” Since Jacob is so much more mature than a normal four year old, does this give him the right to make decisions by himself involving his own life?

While reading Home, and Clay’s Ark I found it very intriguing to compare Cee’s situation and how she was too young to make such big decisions, as opposed to Jacob and the rest of the children who were more mature and in my opinion, deserve to have a say in whether or not they would be infected with the disease or not. The age of consent is a very controversial topic in both of these pieces of literature so I really enjoyed unpacking both of these in regards to whether or not I agreed or disagreed with Cee making her decisions, and Jacob and the other children making their decisions about their lives.

The Lack of Respect African Americans Received in Regards to Their Bodies After Death

The lack of respect from the African Americans in the burial ground can be compared to Fortune’s Bones and the lack of respect he had while alive and deceased. Throughout history African Americans are ridiculed, tortured and disrespected. With the African Burial Ground National Monument, it is a step to finally give them the respect and peace that they deserve.

In Fortune’s Bones, Fortune, was a slave, his wife’s name was Dinah, he had two sons, Africa and Jacob, and two daughters, Mira and Roxa. Dr. Preserved Porter, was Fortune’s master and a physician whose specialty was setting broken bones. Fortune lived in Waterbury, Connecticut, it the late 1700s. “His wife was worth ten dollars. And their son a hundred sixty-six(Nelson, 13).” This quote shows how most African Americans were not treated like human beings. You cannot give humans a price and sell them for money, they are not an item. The one thing that shocked me a lot was how much of a price difference there was between Fortune’s wife and his son. His wife was worth only 10 dollars, where his son was worth 66. This is still unacceptable but the older woman was worth so much less than the young boy. This was because the boy had more to offer, he could work longer and harder than the woman. Fortune died in 1798, and Dr. Porter died in 1803. “In Dr. Porter’s will, he left Dinah to his wife, Lydia. He gave Jacob to his daughter Hannah. No one knows what happened to Africa, Mira, and Roxa(Nelson,14).” Not only did Dr. Porter give away people to his family as gifts, but he separated a family from their loved ones. He separated this family in a time when they needed each other most, after a loved one died. I found it sickening that these people could just be written away in a will, they had no choice of what happened to themselves and it was their own life. It’s sad that these people lived in fear, not knowing what was going to happen next in life, whether it was being separated from your family forever, or not making it after a hard day of work. Not only was Fortune’s life hard as he was living it, but it was just as difficult when he was deceased. “When Fortune died, he wasn’t buried. Instead, Dr. Porter preserved Fortune’s skeleton to study(Nelson, 16).” Not only did Fortune have a difficult life while he was alive, but now even when he has passed away they will not let him rest in peace. Dr. Porter took apart Fortune, bone by bone, he boiled the bones to clean them of fat and drilled the bones to drain them of fluid. Fortune should have been buried in a cemetery so that he could rest eternally in peace, but he was not so fortunate. While studying Fortune’s bones, scientists found that Fortune’s lower back had been broken, then healed and his shoulders, hands, and feet all had been injured. This proved that Fortune’s life had lots of strenuous labor, but the scientists could not discover the diseases Fortune supposedly had and the cause of his death. Fortune’s bones were passed down throughout Dr. Porters family for generations until Fortune’s name was lost and forgotten and the bones were renamed as, Larry. Over the centuries “Larry” was lost in an attic, until he was discovered by a crew of workers hired to renovate a new building. Over the years, not only was Fortune’s name forgotten, his story was too. People made up so many rumors about who it was but no one knew Fortune’s story. Eventually Fortune’s bones were placed in the Mattatuck Museum, one Waterbury resident even said, “Larry was the thing to see when you go to the museum. I don’t think anybody ever envisioned that this was truly a human being(Nelson, 22).” Fortune was kept there for years until he was taken out of his case and put into storage. “The museum now believed that displaying the skeleton was disrespectful. It wasn’t just a bunch of bones. It was the remains of someone’s son, maybe father(Nelson, 26).” In the 1990s, historians researched Fortune and found local records and archaeologists and anthropologists studied Fortunes bone and found the truth about Fortune’s life, how he worked, suffered and even how he died. Fortune finally had the ability to rest in eternal peace. 

The fact that Fortune did not get the respect he deserved until he had been deceased for so many years can be compared to the African Americans buried at the African Burial Ground National Monument. The African Americans buried here did not get to rest in peace either, they suffered when the ground they were buried on was dug apart and their remains were rediscovered. “Excavations began in July 1991, several skeletal remains were recovered. One year later, 390 burials were removed and GSA intended to remove 200 additional burials.”

Archaeologists and anthropologists studied the bones they found and discovered the remains were individuals with filed teeth in hourglass shapes, which is a popular cultural tradition in West Africa. “Based on lesions found on the bones, slaves suffered from hard physical labor and malnutrition. Some of the anthropologists assert that the bone pathologies indicated slaves were literally “worked to death.” This is almost exactly like Fortune’s life, he was worked to death and when he was dead, he was still treated like he did not mean anything. These African Americans did not have names to know who they were, just like how Fortune’s name was changed while his bones were getting passed along. These people were treated like they were good enough to be treated like human beings, they did not get the respect that they deserve and it is sad to think people thought it was okay to treat others like this. The African Burial Ground National Monument ensures that these bodies are kept at rest, and in peace, not bothered at all. The African Burial Ground National Monument is designated a National Historic Landmark, so it is protected and can not be dug up and built on. On October 1, 2007, the memorial was completed and opened for visitors and you can still visit it in Manhattan New York City today. Mayor David Dinkins had spoke about the memorial and had said, “The African Burial Ground is irrefutable testimony to the contributions and suffering of our ancestors.” Although these African Americans did not have respect and peace for a long time, just like Fortune, they are able to have it now. This memorial gives all of these African Americans, their families and ancestors security that they will not be bothered and will now be able to be honored and respected as they deserve.

It was very upsetting to me to read about Fortune and these African Americans who had a life full of suffering and torture, were not able to pass with peacefulnes and dignity attached to them. The African Burial Ground is a step in the right direction but there are still so many cases where slaves and other African Americans never get to rest eternally and obtain recognition.

Is it a Privilege to Rest in Peace?

When you bury a loved one, you are able to respect them and have a tombstone with their name on it, but some people do not get this privilege. Although it seems so simple, to be able to have a tombstone, many African Americans were not fortunate enough to be remembered and respected how they deserved. This is also shown in Zone One, by Colson Whitehead. 

In Zone One, the readers do not figure out the main characters real name throughout the entire time. The nickname he is given is Mark Spitz, which we later find out was the name of a very famous olympic swimmer. Mark Spitz was described as average, “He was not made team captain, nor was he the last one picked. He sidestepped detention and honor rolls with equal aplomb… but his most appropriate designation would have been Most Likely Not to Be Named the Most Likely Anything, and this was not a category(Whitehead, 11).” This explains how Mark Spitz was considered mediocre which I found ironic. I found it ironic that the nickname given to him was Mark Spitz, since he was anything but mediocre. The olympic swimmer Mark Spitz, won nine gold medals and set up to thirty-five world records. But Mark Spitz name was deemed unimportant just like the “skels,” the skels were people as well and I think Mark Spitz, Kaitlyn, Gary, and the rest of the “pheenies” forget that. “He had a particular dislike for No Mas, who bragged around Wonton about his scrapbook of straggler humiliation(Whitehead, 142).” These hunters are taking pieces of these zombies as a trophy, they do not understand that at one point, and even still could be considered human and do not deserve to be treated with such disrespect. At first I forgot that they were humans at one point too, that was until I read, “Fifty-five? Can you look for IDs, Gary(Whitehead,34)?” This made me realize that they had to go through the person’s pockets and belongings to try and find some sort of identification to see who it was. I was shocked when I read this part because it did not register to me that these zombies had to have come from somewhere, they had to be people at one point of their lives. I believe that even the skels were disrespected when it came to being remembered. The skels were not given names, other than “skels,” they did not individually get remembered, after they were killed they were forgotten. They did not get a proper burial or even a tombstone with their name on it. 

While reading Zone One, all I could think about was the African Burial Ground National Monument. It is located in Lower Manhattan, New York City and is administered by the US National Park Service. According to the U.S General Services Administration, “GSA’s African Burial Ground project began in 1991, when, during a pre-construction work for a new federal office building, workers discovered the skeletal remains of the first of more than 400 men, women, and children. Investigations revealed that during the 17th and 18th centuries, free and enslaved Africans were buried in a 6.6 acre burial ground in lower Manhattan outside the boundaries of the settlement of New Amsterdam, which would become New York.” These bodies did not have names attached, no one knew who they were, their families did not know that they were buried at all. In class we watched a video showing us what the Memorial looked like and I noticed giant hills in the memorial, these hills were where so many bodies were buried, and no one knew who they were. It was crazy to me to know that these families did not get closure, because they did not know that their ancestors were even buried at all. “Over the decades, the unmarked cemetery was covered over by development and landfill. The finding deeply impacted the descendant and broader community and, at the same time, renewed awareness in cultural significance and historic preservation.” Building the Memorial was a step in the right direction, although these people were not given the respect they deserve, today people know how wrong it is to not recognize them at all. This is so similar to Zone One because no one realized that these are human beings too. When the African Americans passed away, they were not thought of as human beings so they were just thrown away and forgotten about. These African Americans were probably not respected as they were alive and they deserve to be at rest in peace, and remembered. 

The lack of respect from the African Americans in the burial ground can be compared to Fortune’s Bones and the lack of respect he had while alive and deceased. Throughout history African Americans are ridiculed, tortured and disrespected. With the African Burial Ground National Monument, it is a step to finally give them the respect and peace that they deserve.

Societies Influence in Body Image

Body image is a very controversial topic regarding how people are expected to look, in order to be deemed, “pretty” or “handsome.” What do you think of when you hear the word, “normal” or “perfect?” Octavia B. Butler, and Percival Everett wrote about two very different perspectives of looking different than the ideal image. On one hand you have accepting people but on the other, you have people who whisper and gossip and do not accept anyone a little bit different from them.

In Clay’s Ark, when Blake first saw the people infected with the disease he had said, “Green Shirt, shorter and smaller-boned, did not look healthy himself. He was blond, tanned beneath his coating of dust, though his tan seemed oddly gray. He was balding…A sick man(Butler, 461).” Blake is describing how Ingraham looks, but later he will figure out that everyone who is infected with the disease looks like Ingraham. The people with the disease are a gray-pale color, they are constantly sweating, and they are very thin so even their clothing looks baggy. While reading Clay’s Ark, I constantly thought to myself how different the infected people look from the rest of the world and how scared Blake, Keira, and Rane must be. The more I read, the more I started to understand that they may look weak and sick, but they are people just like Blake, Keira and Rane. Then I felt guilty for judging them for not looking how the world had deemed “normal.” The world has made it so normal to judge people that dont all look and act the same and I fell for it and judged people who would not look like me. The infected people stayed in an isolated community, which I understood because if they didn’t then they would just infect more people. But as we dug deeper into the book I found myself thinking of what it would be like to live in a community like this one, where everyone looks the same. Living in a community where everyone looked pretty similar had its benefits, for example no one worried about how they look because they all looked just as gray and sick as each other. This made me think of Keira and why she didn’t really mind being in the community with Eli and the others. “Keira had been pretty once-when she was healthy…the doctor had turned to old-fashioned chemotherapy. This had caused most of her hair to fall out. She had lost so much weight that none of her clothing fit her properly. She could see herself fading away(Butler,460).” Keira had leukemia and looked just as sick and weak as Eli and Meda and Ingraham do. Keira didn’t mind being in that community because she understood how it felt to be stared at and judged and in the community, everyone looked just like Keira.

In Zulus, Alice Achitophel wasn’t as lucky to find people that understood her as Keira did. Percival Everett used words such as “wide, enormous, and fat” to describe Alice. Alice was a very kind woman who was constantly judged because of her weight, no one really cared to get to know Alice and just knew her from her size. “The old woman would call the fat police or some-damn-body like that and they would take Alice Achitophel away to a reduction camp and they would find out that she was pregnant(Everett, 19).” In this quote, Alice is talking about the lady that lives in her neighborhood, Mrs. Landers. Mrs Landers does not like Alice and thinks of her as a nuisance, and judges her for her size. “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. This makes me realize how awful it must feel for Alice because she has done nothing wrong. She is just trying to sit on the tram and get to her destination but the other people on the tram and not welcoming to her. The one person who did not care about Alice’s size was Theodore Theodore, “Theordore Theodore did not shake his head when he looked at Alice Achitophel, nor did he look away(Everett, 22).” Theodore Theodore respected Alice and perhaps knew how it felt to be stared at and have people constantly whispering about him. Theodore Theodore did not fit society’s idea of the “norm” either. Theodore Theodore was very short, under five feet but he spoke with confidence, although he did have a high voice, he spoke loud, directed at people instead of a situation. Theodore Theodore may have not looked like everybody else but he knew how to carry himself to get the respect he deserved. Alice lacked confidence and always thought very low of herself, when Theodore Theodore compliments her about her dress, she felt anxious and “upset that he had even spoken to her(Everett, 23).”  Alice was so used to being ridiculed that she was so self conscious about herself that she did not understand why Theodore Theodore spoke to her, let alone compliment her. Later in the book, Alice met with Body Woman Rima. Body Woman Rima treated Alice like she was not a human being, Body Women Rima called Alice filthy and said, “The smell is dreadful…We’d best be careful, it might be harmful for us to breathe it in for too long(Everett, 90).” Body Women Rima was examining Alice to see if she was pregnant but Alice knew she was dirty due to the fact that she had been traveling. Alice asked to bathe but Body Women Rima completely ignores Alice and continued to make crude comments like these. I felt bad for Alice while reading Zulus, because no one deserves to feel like Alice did in a majority of the book. Society took Alice because she did not look like everyone else and was a little bit different, and made her feel ashamed of herself.

While reading Zulus, and Clay’s Ark, it was so interesting to compare the difference of how people were treated Alice to how Eli and the other people accepted each other and were there for each other. Eli had a whole community, while Alice had no one except herself to get through their tough times. While reading these two books I compared it to the world today, so many famous people get surgeries and have so much money to change how they look to make themselves look like their idea of perfect. But then the everyday people who idolize them start to feel like they need to look like that or they are not pretty or handsome. Society tricks people into thinking they are not good enough and I think it’s time that this ends.

Is Separate Actually Equal?

Anna Johnston

After only a few weeks in this course I have already widened my knowledge on this topic and am interested in learning more about such a hard hitting topic that most people probably didn’t know existed in our history. One book we read in class was Home by Toni Morrison, a book about Frank Money and his sister Cee. Frank is an army veteran who doesn’t feel he has a purpose in life anymore. That is until he gets a letter telling him that Cee needs his help. I enjoyed reading this book because it was interesting to see Frank and Cees relationship, but also how differently they were treated.

In the beginning of Home, Frank was in a mental hospital but was not sure how he got there. Frank did not give consent to be there or even know what was being done to him while he was there, all he knew was that he had to escape. Frank escaped and knew he had to go to Georgia to save his sister, she was all he had left. Frank left his sister to go to war because he wanted out of Lotus and would do whatever it took to do that. When Frank left Cee, Cee’s protector abandoned her. While they were going up Frank always protected Cee from the bad things in life, I believe this caused Cee to be naive as an adult. When Frank was in the war Cee met a man named Prince, he was the first man to show Cee much attention. Cee was only fourteen when her and Prince had a Reverend come and bless them, after that, Prince took Cee to Atlanta. Cee was excited about her new life in Atlanta with Prince, only to find out he married her for her automobile. Prince left Cee alone and took the automobile. I believe Cee was naive and just loved having someone giving her attention since Frank always scared boys off when she was a child. After this, Cees family did not accept her nor want her to come back home and Lenore threatened to have Cee arrested. Since Prince left Cee she had barely any money and knew she needed to get a good paying job fast. Cee’s friend told her about Dr. Beau, and how he needed someone to help around the house. Although Cee did not get much information about the job see didn’t care, it was a well paying job and that was all she cared about. When Cee went to Dr. Beau’s house to apply for the job I thought it was strange. Mrs. Scott asked Cee very specific questions about whether she was married, had any children, and if she was affiliated with any church. She also asked Cee if she graduated high school and if she could read. Throughout this part of the book I felt that Mrs. Scott was talking down to Cee and was being short with her while she asked her the questions. Although Cee did not get much information about the job she was applying for, as soon as she saw the books on the bookshelf she should’ve turned and ran the other way. Some of the books on the shelf were, Out of the Night, The Passing of the Great Race, and Heredity, Race and Society. One quote I found from the book that was interesting was when Cee said, “And promised herself she would find time to read about and understand “eugenics.” This was a good, safe place, she knew, and Sarah had become her family, her friend, and her confidante(Morrison, 65).” While reading this I had a lot of questions going through my head. My most important one being, did Sarah know what the doctor was doing to Cee? Also, I thought it was ironic how Cee said she would read about and understand eugenics, because if she did that, she wouldn’t have gotten into the mess she was in.

While reading Home and learning about Cee, I was thinking about the Simkins V Cone Case we talked about in class. “In the early 1960s most hospitals did not accept blacks or colored people. Only nine hospitals existed for African Americans in North Carolina, and most were overcrowded and offered inadequate healthcare.” Even if an African American did go to a hospital that accepted them, they were not treated well at all. Most hospitals did not allow black physicians to admit patients or even train as interns. In the  1960s, George Simkins and other African American doctors and patients filed a lawsuit against Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital and Wesley Long Community Hospital because the facilities allegedly refused to accept black patients. After Simkins patient was denied access to the hospital, Simkins discovered that the same facilities had been built with federal funding, which means that it could implicate possible government discrimmination. Although the plaintiffs lost, they appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals and in November 1963, the court overruled the courts previous decision. The appellate court found the hospitals violated the fifth fourteen amendments. Although black health facilities were separate from white health facilities, they were definitely not equal. After their loss, the hospitals filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy filed a brief for Simkins and the other plaintiffs, but the Supreme Court denied the case. According to Karen Kruse Thomas, the Simkins V Cone “decision marked the first time that federal courts applied the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to prohibit racial discrimination by private entity.” The Simkins V Cone Case ended separate but equal forever and allowed African Americans to have equal opportunities in the healthcare field and gave patients opportunities to get the best treatments that they had instead of not being treated because of their skin color.

I found Home a very eye opening book because Frank in the beginning of the book was in a mental hospital, without giving consent to be there. Today, you must give consent and the hospital must tell you all the information about the treatments they are giving you and the procedures being done. It shocked me that Frank had no idea where he was or even what had happened to him and he didn’t make it as big of a deal as it actually was. Frank just knew he had to escape to get to his sister but it was almost like before that, he didn’t care that he was in the mental hospital.

The Scary Truth of Medical Institutions

When I saw Medicine and Racism on my schedule I had absolutely no idea how those two topics had anything in common. How did medicine and racism have anything to do with each other? Then, I was introduced to “Medical Apartheid” and “Fortunes Bones” and my whole outlook changed. “Medical Apartheid”, by Harriet A. Washington shows how abusive the medical field was during the time that was portrayed in the text “Fortune’s Bones,” by Marilyn Nelson told the story of the life of Fortune and what happened to him after he died.

Reading “Medical Apartheid” made me realize how lucky I am to be able to go to the doctors office or hospital and know that I will be given treatments that will help me get healthy again.During the time period of “Fortune’s Bones,” many African Americans feared anything that had to do with the medical field. I feel privileged because I can trust that I will get the best treatment, but African Americans knew they would be test subjects when they went to “receive treatments.”  African Americans were not as fortunate when it came to being treated in the medical field. More often than not, African Americans were used to experiment with new and different medicines, even though it wouldn’t help them and wasn’t the right treatment. In Medical Apartheid, Washington stated, “Dangerous, involuntary, and nontherapeutic experimentatiom upon African Americans has been practiced widely and documented extensively at least since the eighteenth century(Washington,7).” Also, medical researchers believed that African Americans did not have to give consent in order to experiment on them. At the time, most African Americans were enslaved people that did not have a say in what happened in their life. “These subjects were given experimental vaccines known to have highly lethality, were enrolled in experiments without their consent or knowledge…(Washington, 6)” When I read this quote and read about the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in “Medical Apartheid,” I wanted to know more. In 1932, the Public Health Service worked with the Tuskegee Institute for a study to record the natural history of syphilis to possibly find a treatment for African Americans. The study originally called for 600 black men, 399 did have syphilis, but the other 201 did not have the disease. The patients did not have the benefit of consent, and therefore did not know what was being put into their bodies. The men were told they were being treated for syphilis but in reality, they were never given the right treatment for the disease. The men had been misled and had not been informed of the studies real purpose. In 1947, penicillin was discovered as the treatment to help syphilis and even then, the men were not given penicillin. The last participant of the Tuskegee Study died in January of 2009 and there is currently 12 offspring receiving medical health benefits.

 African Americans went to the hospital thinking they were being treated and nursed back to health but in reality they were being used as experiments that the doctors knew they probably would not survive. The people that “owned” them believed that they could give consent for them at hospitals. After reading “Medical Apartheid”, I learned that if an enslaved person was hurt or old or basically not performing to their best ability, the owner would sent them to the hospital and if they survived and got better, they would be sent back to the owner to continue working. If the enslaved person did not make it, the hospital would either keep them for experimentation, to autopsy tables, or even medical universities. “If a master sent a sick, elderly, or otherwise-unproductive slave to the hospital, he usually gave the institution caring for and boarding the slave carte blanche for his treatment-and for his disposal(Washington, 126).” What this means is once the “Master” sends an enslaved person to the hospital, that person is not his responsibility any longer. It’s very frightening to know that at a point in time people had to worry that once a family member or friend dies they may not remain in peace. It was very common in the 19th century for African Americans to be stolen in the grave and sold to medical universities to be used in human anatomy classes and for experiments. Reading “Medical Apartheid” opened my eyes to how cruel the medical world treated African Americans and shows why so many could be hesitent or scared to go to hospitals today.

Though Medical Apartheid is not the only book that made me realize what medicine and racism had to do with each other. Fortune’s Bones, by Marilyn Nelson also shows how cruel African Americans were treated in the medical world. African Americans were not only tortured while they were alive, but after they pass away too. In Fortune’s Bones, an African American Man was used for human anatomy purposes after death. This was not uncommon with African Americans after they passed away. They could be sold to Medical Universities and used for research. One quote that stuck out to me in Fortune’s Bones was, “ In profound and awful intimacy, I enter Fortune, and he enters me(” When I read this quote  I realized that as this man entered Fortune’s body and prodded at his bones, Fortune’s life entered this man. This man was getting information about Fortune’s life and how difficult it was and getting information about Fortune’s bones and body. While looking at Fortune’s body, “They found that his lower back had been broken, then healed at sometime during his life. His shoulders, hands, and feet had all been injured(Nelson, 18).” This suggests that Fortune’s life had been full of continuous hard labor. Not only did he have a difficult life while he was alive but even when he’s dead he is still being tortured and abused. Over the years, Fortune’s body was passed down through the Porter family and used for human anatomy. As the years went on, someone changed Fortune’s name to Larry. Fortune’s identity was taken away from him as well as the life he lived. Children played with “Larry” like he wasn’t an actual human being and he was some sort of toy. Fortune was soon forgotten as “Larry” was being shown off at the Mattatuck Museum. “Larry” was on display at the Museum and new stories were made up about him, Fortune’s legacy was soon changed and his whole life was left behind. I do not have to live with knowing that when I die I could be stolen from the grave, or not even make it to a cemetery and be sold to Medical Universities to be poked and prodded in human anatomy classes. Fortune’s Bones made me realize how frightening it was for African Americans even after they passed away. They had such a hard life while they were alive, they should be able to rest in peace.

Before taking this class, I never knew how bad the medical field was for African Americans and how scary it was to go to hospitals. After only a few weeks in this course I have already widened my knowledge on this topic and am interested in learning more about such a hard hitting topic that most people probably didn’t know existed in our history.