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Healing the Disconnect Between Race and Science

There is a planned March fo Science on the 22nd of February. Whether that march turns into another monster like the Women’s March or barely inconvenience the subway system is really dependent on the “Scientists” making alliances with other groups. Science in particular hasn’t always been good news for black folks, who were often used and abused in horrendous scientific “experiments”. Tuskegee still resounds in the psyche of many black people, who as a result have a inborn distrust of Science.

Image result for Tuskegee syphilis experiment

Race, History and the #ScienceMarch

Donald Trump is an anti-science president. In fact, his entire raison d’être — perhaps unsurprisingly — stands at cross-purposes with the scientific method, systematic inquiry, and even the basic notion of evidentiary support. In the few days since his inauguration, Trump has already prohibited scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from speaking to the public about their research. Moreover, the White House recently expunged U.S. National Park Service (NPS) Twitter content highlighting the threat of climate change. In the wake of Trump’s dictates, concerned scientists have taken to social media to plan a protest in Washington, DC that they are dubbing the #ScienceMarch. The Twitter account associated with the action — @ScienceMarchDC — has amassed over 240,000 followers since it came online a week ago.

The #ScienceMarch has great potential to underscore the need for public policy to be grounded in scientific study. Securing widespread participation, however, will require that the organizers pull together multiple constituencies in a broad-based multi-racial and bi-partisan alliance. To be sure, the coalitional nature — and, therefore, efficacy — of this fledgling movement will be predicated on the extent to which its organizers are willing to acknowledge the racialized nature of the history of science itself. That is, the organizers must understand the manifold ways in which so-called scientific experimentation and discourse have been marshaled to ratify and propagate white supremacy and to degrade the bodies, minds, and experiences of people of color.

Whereas event organizers claim that “[science] is a not partisan issue,” history unequivocally proves otherwise. Science is and always has been a function of power and politics. The historical record is replete with examples of the ways in which scientific inquiry and experimentation have sought to naturalize and rationalize the inferiority of people of color and justify their oppression through the language of pathology, deviance, and abnormality. Further, people of color have long served as laboratories for dangerous scientific experimentation. Exposing this lurid history is the first of many steps in forcing mainstream science — often implicitly racialized as white — to confront a historical past that exerts an enduring political force over our historical present.

“Because of science,” 21-year-old Black South African Saartjie Baartman was brought to Europe under false pretenses in 1810 by physician William Dunlop and paraded around London’s Piccadilly Circus as a “theatre of human oddities” on the basis of her large buttocks and protruding vulva. For years, Baartman’s body was the object of spectacle, scientific fascination, and degradation. Dr. Dunlop and other medical professionals used her large buttocks and extended labia to claim that Black people were morphologically similar to Orangutans. When Baartman died in 1815 at the age of 26 her corpse became the property of scientist Georges Cuvier. Cuvier fabricated a plaster cast of her body before dissecting it and preserved her skeleton, brain, and genitals. Baartman’s sexual organs were displayed in a Paris museum until 1974, when activists successfully petitioned to have her remains returned to her birthplace in South Africa. Baartman’s body was not repatriated and buried until 2002.

“Because of science,” Samuel Cartwright, a New Orleans physician and Confederate loyalist, argued that high rates of physical and mental illnesses afflicting enslaved black persons were products of the ostensible biologically inferior mental capacity of the “black race.” In his 1815 “Report on the Disease and the Physical Peculiarities of the Negro Race,” Cartwright introduced what he called “Drapetomania,” known as the “Disease Causing Slaves to Run Away.” Unconvinced that enslaved Black children, women, and men might naturally seek freedom, Cartwright instead claimed that Drapetomania could be cured by “kindness.”

“Because of science,” Ota Benga, a young Congolese man, was put on display in an iron monkey cage at the Bronx Zoo in 1906. Benga was brought to the United States by Samuel Verner, a well-known white supremacist from South Carolina. Benga’s captivity — justified under the impress of scientific exploration — was sanctioned by zoological society officials, the mayor of New York City, prominent scientists, much of the public, and many major U.S. newspapers, including The New York Times. Officials at the Bronx Zoo said that “Benga, according to our information, is…closer to the anthropoid apes than the other African savages…” Four years before Benga’s exhibition, Dr. Daniel Brinton published his text The Basis of Social Relations: A Study in Ethnic Psychologywhere he first claimed that Africans were “midway between the Oranutang [sic] and the European white.”

“Because of science,” Alice Jones, who had recently married Leonard Rhinelander, a wealthy white man from Manhattan, was forced to “prove her race” in a New York court in 1924. During her trial Jones was forced to expose her naked body to an all-white, all-male jury and judge. She was made to remove various articles of clothing so the jury and judge could determine her race by examining the color of her nipples, back, and legs. The court concluded that Jones was not fully white.

“Because of science,” Dr. John Cutler, a physician with the U.S. Public Health Service, deliberately infected over 400 Guatemalan prisoners and sex workers with syphilis from 1946–1948. None of the research subjects were asked for their consent. Seventy-one subjects died during the experiments.

“Because of science,” doctors and public officials deliberately withheld syphilis treatment from hundreds of black men in Alabama as part of the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” The experiment — conducted from 1932–1972 — resulted in hundreds of deaths. To this day, there is no evidence that researchers informed the men of the study or its real purpose.

“Because of science,” the University of Cincinnati, with the help of the Pentagon, conducted experiments on 88 cancer patients from 1960–1971 by exposing them to intense doses of radiation and recording their physical and mental responses. They endeavored to answer the following question: “In the event of a nuclear explosion, how much radiation could a soldier withstand before becoming disoriented or disabled?” According to reporting in The New York Times, “most were poor; 60 percent were black.”

“Because of science,” psychiatrists Walter Bromberg and Frank Simon diagnosed Black Power as a form of “protest psychosis” in 1968. They described it as a form of “delusional anti-whiteness.” Four years later, in “Symbolism in Protest Psychosis,” they said the disorder was “a psychotic illness with strong elements of racial hostility and black nationalism [that entails] the release of previously repressed anti-white feelings, which combine with African ideology and beliefs.” In short, “[the illness is oriented toward] reversing the white supremacy tradition or stating an objection to the accepted superiority of white values in terms of an African ideology.”

“Because of science,” over 310 HIV+ Haitian asylum seekers were detained at a Guantánamo Bay prison campfrom 1991–1993. At the time, federal law prohibited individuals with HIV from entering the United States even if they qualified for political asylum.

“Because of science,” over 60,000 women and men — the majority of whom are women of color — were involuntarily sterilized from 1907–2003 in 32 U.S. states. Black and Latina women in Puerto Rico, New York, North Carolina, and California were targeted by the U.S. government for sterilization throughout the 20th century. North Carolina involuntarily sterilized 7,600 people from 1929–1974. During that time period, 85 percent of the victims were women and 40 percent were people of color. Native American women were also subjected to coercive and involuntary population control practices throughout much of the 20th century. The Indian Health Service (IHS) began providing family planning services to Native American families in 1965. According to the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, over 25 percent of Native American women were sterilized between 1970 and 1976.

“Because of science,” nearly 150 women prisoners — most of whom are Black and Brown — were sterilized between 2006 and 2010 by doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). A May 2013 state audit reported that some of the tubal ligations in that time were done illegally without informed consent.

These histories matter.

The #ScienceMarch organizers have recently written that “people from all parts of the political spectrum should be alarmed by [Trump’s] efforts to deny scientific progress.” And they are correct. We should be alarmed. Such a claim, however, seems to leave unacknowledged the ways in which communities of color — based on the histories outlined above — might not take the unqualified promise of science at face value. To be sure, the history of science is a history of power — the power to name problems and legitimize solutions, the power to dictate political agendas, and the power to hierarchize social order. Certainly, the #ScienceMarch is an idea worthy of merit. Its success, however, will depend on acknowledging the racialized histories of science itself.

 

 

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The New Jim Crow – Creating a Racist Environment

Two articles, the first by Uncle Tommie Sowell bemoaning the fact that in two instances some black school kids beat up some Asian school kids for being Nerds. Of course Uncle Tommie, ignoring the fact that there is substantially more friction between white kids and Asian kids, acting in his “Good Nigra” role, wants to warn Asian kids “Dem ebil black folks is out to get ya'”!

Ignoring the fact that he, and his associated coonservative Tom Squad have fully participated in, and materially contributed to creating the situation wherein these racial resentments continue to fester and by many measurements have exploded.

The second article, Black college students get a lesson in cyber-racism, discusses two recent studies which look at the cyber-world, and the freedom of anonymity allowing racists to let their freak flags fly from the safety of their own hovels. Expressing these racist feelings, and characterizing black people as lazy, stupid, or criminal after all – is not racism, because they are just repeating the stereotypes fully supported by Uncle Tommie Sewage and the Tom Squad.

Is the web a hostile environment for African-American young people? Apparently, yes. Black college students experience more bias and discrimination online than their white counterparts. And they have more negative attitudes towards racial diversity on campus. This, according to a study conducted by Brendesha M. Tynes, a professor of educational psychology and African-American studies at the University of Illinois, and Suzanne L. Markoe, a psychology professor at UCLA. They surveyed 217 African-American and white college students in order to assess social networking, online victimization and the racial climate on college campuses.

The study found that black students, who generally have more diverse contact online and spend more time on the web, experienced more online victimization, and discrimination as simple as a racist image posted on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace. And they face a more negative racial environment at school.

For African-American students, negative online experiences outweighed the positives. Meanwhile, the study found that although diverse offline contact fostered a more positive campus climate, online contact did not accomplish the same result.

The Bell Curve by Charles Murray, a racist screed following up on the studies of white supremacist racial eugencists as such has become “truth”. It is after all backed up by research and parroted by eminent black Uncle Toms –

These two studies are timely, given the most recent example of online student racism coming from Harvard Law School.

As a follow up to a dinner conversation, Stephanie Grace, a law student at Harvard, wrote an email message to a few of her classmates proclaiming her belief that blacks are “less intelligent on a genetic level” than whites.

“I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true,” she added. “Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African-American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.”

The enemy within…Indeed.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2010 in American Greed, Black Conservatives

 

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