Acknowledge the Past

We must acknowledge the past in order to regain trust and to seize the future.

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington

Brain Surgery for Docility

From the 1960s through the early 1970s, disenchantment with the widespread use of tranquilizers fostered interest in brain surgery as an alternative to “quiet” patients. University of Mississippi neurosurgeon Orlando J. Andy, M.D., capitalized on this trend, performing many types of brain ablations, including thalamotomies (destruction of the thalamus, which controls emotions and analyzes sensations), on African American children as young as six who, he decided, were “aggressive” and “hyperactive”…Today, Andy is revered as a neurosurgical pioneer, one whose work was never challenged in his lifetime and who never suffered any disciplinary action…brain destruction was employed not only for misbehaving black boys but to ensure the docility of prisoners and, in the 1960s, as a government-funded cure for urban rioters. Three American physicians proposed that such urban uprisings were caused by men who could be cured by psychosurgery. Dr. Vernon Mark, director of neurosurgery at Boston City Hospital, and his colleagues Drs. Frank Ervin and William Sweet swept aside social factors such as poverty, slum housing, and poor education in a 1967 proposal in the Journal of the American Medical Association: The obviousness of these causes may have blinded us to the more subtle role of other possible factors, including brain dysfunction…The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration granted the three surgeons $600,000 for brain research on urban rioters.

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington

Radioactive Experiments on Orphans

Vanderbilt University physicians administered radioactive cocktails to pregnant women in Nashville. The University of Chicago fed the radioactive elements strontium and cesium to 102 unwitting patients at state schools. One Dickensian institution, the Fernald School in Waltham, Massachusetts, added radioactive oatmeal to the menus of thirty orphans in a program sponsored by the AEC with the support of the Quaker Oats Company. Old videotapes reveal that some of these Fernald boys were African American, but no records with racial identifiers were ever released. When victims died, government scientists obtained their bodies and autopsied them carefully, measuring the levels of radioactivity and biological damage. To enable large numbers of these grim assessments, at least fifteen thousand bodies were exposed and collected for one project alone: Operation Sunshine. Until the mid-1980s and without the knowledge of patients or their next of kin, this program shipped the bodies and body parts of radiation experiment victims to be dissected at headquarters in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington

Is Looking Down Worth It?

There was a certain discontentment among people who had once owned motorcars and bathrooms and eaten meat twice daily, at having to walk ten or twenty miles a day, bathe once a week, along with fifty others, in a long trough, get meat only twice a week—when they got it—and sleep in bunks, a hundred in a room. Yet there was less rebellion than a mere rationalist like Walt Trowbridge, Windrip’s ludicrously defeated rival, would have expected, for every evening the loudspeaker brought to the workers the precious voices of Windrip and Sarason, Vice-President Beecroft, Secretary of War Luthorne, Secretary of Education and Propaganda Macgoblin, General Coon, or some other genius, and these Olympians, talking to the dirtiest and tiredest mudsills as warm friend to friend, told them that they were the honored foundation stones of a New Civilization, the advance guards of the conquest of the whole world.

They took it, too, like Napoleon’s soldiers. And they had the Jews and the Negroes to look down on, more and more. The M.M.’s saw to that.

Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on.

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

  • Biography from Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

 

Blame My Timid Soul

“A few months ago I thought the slaughter of the Civil War, and the agitation of the violent Abolitionists who helped bring it on, were evil. But possibly they had to be violent, because easy-going citizens like me couldn’t be stirred up otherwise. If our grandfathers had had the alertness and courage to see the evils of slavery and of a government conducted by gentlemen for gentlemen only, there wouldn’t have been any need of agitators and war and blood.

“It’s my sort, the Responsible Citizens who’ve felt ourselves superior because we’ve been well-to-do and what we thought was ‘educated,’ who brought on the Civil War, the French Revolution, and now the Fascist Dictatorship. It’s I who murdered Rabbi de Verez. It’s I who persecuted the Jews and the Negroes. I can blame no Aras Dilley, no Shad Ledue, no Buzz Windrip, but only my own timid soul and drowsy mind. Forgive, O Lord!

“Is it too late?”

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

  • Biography from Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

Radical Attorney

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Ahead of the crowd a lady with twists stands on top of a police car, holding a bullhorn. She turns toward us, her fist raised for black power. Khalil smiles on the front of her T-shirt.

“Ain’t that your attorney, Starr?” Seven asks.

“Yeah.”

Now I knew Ms. Ofrah was about that radical life, but when you think “attorney” you don’t really think “person standing on a police car with a bullhorn,” you know?

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

Your Game, My Life

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“I can see,” Miss Emily said, “that it might look as though you were simply pawns in a game. It can certainly be looked at like that. But think of it. You were lucky pawns. There was a certain climate and now it’s gone. You have to accept that sometimes that’s how things happen in this world. People’s opinions, their feelings, they go one way, then the other. It just so happens you grew up at a certain point in this process.”

“It might be just some trend that came and went,” I said. “But for us, it’s our life.”

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

 

Comfortable Ignorance

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Morningdale. There were other things at that time. That awful television series, for instance. All these things contributed, contributed to the turning of the tide. But I suppose when it comes down to it, the central flaw was this. Our little movement, we were always too fragile, always too dependent on the whims of our supporters. So long as the climate was in our favour, so long as a corporation or a politician could see a benefit in supporting us, then we were able to keep afloat. But it had always been a struggle, and after Morningdale, after the climate changed, we had no chance. The world didn’t want to be reminded how the donation programme really worked. They didn’t want to think about you students, or about the conditions you were brought up in. In other words, my dears, they wanted you back in the shadows. Back in the shadows where you’d been before the likes of Marie-Claude and myself ever came along. And all those influential people who’d once been so keen to help us, well of course, they all vanished.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

 

More Than A Hashtag

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Something’s bugging me. I wanted to ask Uncle Carlos, but I couldn’t for some reason. Daddy’s different though. While Uncle Carlos somehow keeps impossible promises, Daddy keeps it real with me. “You think the cops want Khalil to have justice?” I ask. Thump-thump-thump. Thump . . . thump . . . thump. The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen—people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

February is Black History Month

Homeless College Professors

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Sex work is one of the more unusual ways that adjuncts have avoided living in poverty, and perhaps even homelessness. A quarter of part-time college academics (many of whom are adjuncts, though it’s not uncommon for adjuncts to work 40 hours a week or more) are said to be enrolled in public assistance programs such as Medicaid.

They resort to food banks and Goodwill, and there is even an adjuncts’ cookbook that shows how to turn items like beef scraps, chicken bones and orange peel into meals. And then there are those who are either on the streets or teetering on the edge of losing stable housing. The Guardian has spoken to several such academics, including an adjunct living in a “shack” north of Miami, and another sleeping in her car in Silicon Valley.

This is why adjuncts have been called “the fast-food workers of the academic world”: among labor experts adjuncting is defined as “precarious employment”, a growing category that includes temping and sharing-economy gigs such as driving for Uber. An American Sociological Association taskforce focusing on precarious academic jobs, meanwhile, has suggested that “faculty employment is no longer a stable middle-class career”.

“Most of my colleagues are unjustifiably ashamed,” she said. “They take this personally, as if they’ve failed, and I’m always telling them, ‘you haven’t failed, the system has failed you.’”

Facing poverty, academics turn to sex work and sleeping in cars Adjunct professors in America face low pay and long hours without the security of full-time faculty. Some, on the brink of homelessness, take desperate measures. By the Outside in America team at the Guardian 11/2017