A tenant subject of the infamous Tuskegee study.
Photo courtesy CDC
‘Good reason be afraid of what white people are up to ‘
Craig Donaldson, an Oakland humanities teacher, says his high school students agree as much on few things as their staunch refusal to get the “push”. The broad consensus among its mostly African American students – there are a few Latinos and Arabs, but no whites – is to simply say “no” when it comes to any of the COVID-19 vaccines on the market.
“The reason is because they just don’t trust the government at all,” said Donaldson, a 52-year-old African American, who asked not to use his real name because he was concerned about retaliation from the school administration. “And they don’t trust big institutions like the medical establishment.
“They think there might be a plan,” said Donaldson. “I’m not saying there is deep analysis or anything, but a general instinctive distrust of the system and its intentions towards blacks.”
Despite being vaccinated himself, Donaldson admits he shares his students’ concerns. “My girlfriend is bothering me because I [vaccinated]”Said Donaldson. “She is Afrocentric and suspicious of Western medicine and stands up [homeopathic remedies]. Like my students, she believes that something more nefarious is involved [with the vaccines]. “
Donaldson, his girlfriend and his students are hardly outliers in the African American community, but rather represent a black-body policy that has little trust in white Americans, their institutions or their medicine. Along with Latinos, blacks remain the most unvaccinated population in the United States
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 72% of American adults had received at least one dose of vaccine by August 16. 58% of those vaccinated are known by race, 58% of them are white and 10% are black.
With the Delta variant rampant among the unvaccinated in particular, health professionals are redoubling their efforts to allay blacks’ fears of the vaccines. “We know the vaccine is safe,” said Dr. Michele Benoit-Wilson, a gynecologist at WakeMed Health in Raleigh, North Carolina, who said she encourages her patients to get vaccinated almost daily.
“No increased risk of miscarriage was seen in women vaccinated before pregnancy or in early pregnancy,” said Benoit-Wilson. “The solution has to be to vaccinate all of us and get the message across that the vaccine is very safe.”
That doesn’t mean gas-lighting African Americans’ concerns or dismissing them as paranoid, however, said Dr. Rachel Villanueva, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. She is the president of the National Medical Association, the black equivalent of the American Medical Association.
History is replete with examples of white doctors brutally treating African Americans instead of curing them, including the most famous Tuskegee experiment in which 400 black tenants were treated with placebos for syphilis instead of the generally accepted treatment penicillin. Less well known are the abuses of the “father of gynecology”, a 19th century gynecologist named J. Marion Sims, who experimented on enslaved women without anesthesia.
In 1931, another white doctor, Cornelius Rhoads, investigating anemia in Puerto Rico, wrote a letter to a colleague boasting that he deliberately killed eight patients. Twenty years later, Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African American mother of five, complained of vaginal bleeding to doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Without their consent, the doctors donated some of the cancerous tissue taken from Lacks’ cervix to medical researchers.
Ironically, the Lacks cell line – known as the workhorse of modern biological research – was last used in the development of vaccines against COVID-19.
And last year, a 52-year-old African American medical doctor, Susan Moore, died of COVID-19 after complaining about the frustrating exchange with a white hospital doctor in the Indiana University health system. In a Facebook post shortly before her death, she described the doctor’s refusal to prescribe pain medication for her severe neck pain.
“I was devastated,” said a tearful Moore. “He made me feel like a drug addict. And he knew I was a doctor. I don’t take narcotics. I was injured.”
“Our community has a deep distrust of the medical system, and for good reason,” said Dr. Villanueva the MSR. “Blacks are hesitant because they lack confidence in the vaccine. That is understandable. But we think it’s so important to educate patients and work to get them vaccinated. White people are also vaccinated. “
Through social media channels, black activists urge Americans to naturally boost their immune systems, wondering why other countries have been successful in treating the spread of COVID-19 with traditional drugs or drugs like ivermectin. A New York area African American activist Lisa Davis recently wrote on Facebook:
“It just goes back to my original premise … that the principles of white supremacy are deeply anchored in Eurocentric medicine, since what counts as ‘science’ does not recognize or even recognize any culture that is not white! But it steals from them. “
Oakland school teacher Donaldson said that unlike many whites, his students are not necessarily averse to wearing masks, suggesting that they are skeptical about the disease itself, rather than about the treatment. “There is such a widespread attack on blackness that we have really good reason to be concerned about what white people are up to.”