An American Tragedy

“If they had died of COVID-19 at the same actual

rate as White Americans, about 21,200 Black,

10,000 Latino, 1,000 Indigenous, and 70 Pacific Islander Americans would still be alive. THE COLOR OF CORONAVIRUS: COVID-19 DEATHS BY RACE AND ETHNICITY IN THE U.S. by APM RESEARCH LAB STAFF | Nov. 12, 2020.”

The life of one member of any family is precious. Nationwide many families will mourn as we enter one of the potentially darkest periods in this nation’s history. Though in America, the tragedy ultimately returns to the familiar phrase of “Black Lives Matter.” This space of the American Dialect will never tire as long as injustices persist.

Henrietta Lacks lives on in many of the hopes and dreams of families that want to experience a better and healthier life. The African American woman’s tragedy of mortality manifested through an episode of vaginal cancer. Before that happened, scientists removed some of her cells without her knowledge. These barrier-breaking cells could live and multiply outside of Henretta’s body. 

They are known as the HeLa cells, identified by many as one of the most important medical discoveries in the last hundred years. Years after her demise, through harvesting, her cells live on to treat many ailments from Parkinson’s disease, the Flu Virus, HPV, to the famous DrJonas Salk cure for the Polio Virus, among many others. 

“Scientists had been trying to keep human cells alive in culture for decades, but they all eventually died. Henrietta’s were different: they reproduced an entire generation every twenty-four hours, and they never stopped. They became the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory.” Rebecca Skloot and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

Tragically Henrietta never permitted any of this. Her patient files were widely dispersed, and her family has suffered. This experience is just one example of the abuse of an African American under the guise of medical advancement. American history teaches that this is not an isolated incident. The involuntary sterilizations of slave women to the Tuskegee Experiment involved infecting African American men with Syphilis, and the American Tragedy continues. Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia is where mostly black prisoners became human Ginny pigs.  

“Within a short time, Kligman, with the support of the dermatology department of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, had moved from rudimentary studies to more sophisticated (and dangerous) investigations such as a 1958 study (that) inoculated scores of prisoners with such ectodermotropic viruses as wart virus, vaccinia, herpes simplex, and herpes zoster. The subjects of these experiments were healthy “colored” male volunteers, 20 to 45 years of age who volunteered to be inoculated several times”   

Tuskegee was hardly the last time American medical researchers used men in unethical experiments BY ALLEN M. HORNBLUM

Further experiments from Chemical in 1964 to mind control in the 60s would spell tragedy multiplied for these prisoners. 

Henceforth we now endure COVID 19, the worst pandemic in a century, and People of Color are bearing the brunt. Many in the non-mask wearing white working class and the white evangelical communities are downplaying the virus. From selfish comments such as, “I feel great, I am not afraid, it violates my liberty, it’s a media-driven hoax,” etc. The disregard for the lives of Blacks and other minorities couldn’t be any more apparent. Health care discrepancies and medical racism has haunted America to this day.  

From the stereotypical notion that blacks do not experience pain like others to the microaggressions displayed by physicians toward indigenous people and other marginalized communities, the American Tragedy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of inequality. In a season when the nation needs it most, the uniquely extraordinary victim in this pandemic is trust.  

Vaccines are on the way, and many people don’t know if they can trust them. For the aforementioned obvious reasons, minorities do not trust the government with another fast-tracked virtually, never tried before R.N.A. Vaccine. To be noted in another unending layer of tragedy, European studies show that the vaccine is less effective with people of color.

“COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective for racial minorities, suggest computer scientists By Hannah Balfour (European Pharmaceutical Review.)” Hearing this, one would question the minority representation in the sampling, or because of the prevailing distrust in the minority community, did testers have recruiting problems. Were the trials done in intentional disregard of these populations? The same European studies show that increasing the peptide level would improve these vaccines’ efficacy to near 100 percent among all people. Would the tinkering bring back the muscle memory of Tuskegee, Holmesburg Prison, etc.? All of these represent authentic assessments that black and brown populations must work through.

“Half of Black adults say they won’t take a coronavirus vaccine New poll finds that even those planning to get a shot are worried early versions won’t be safe.” BY LONNAE O’NEAL The Undefeated.com

The government must be transparent with the minority population concerning these vaccines and do everything possible to educate the involved communities and acknowledge past transgressions. These actions could mark the significant steps toward “Building the Bridge Together” over COVID19, the American Tragedy.

Kevin Robinson Executive Director of Accord1

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